About to renew my contract. Not sure which phone to get but would like a contract that has auto login for both The Cloud and BT OPenzone; the most common public wifi I come across in London.
I know it's an old thread now, but I'm not sure there's anyone that covers both The Cloud and BT Openzone.
Since BSkyB bought The Cloud, most if not all of the deals allowing customers of other Wi-Fi networks to roam onto The Cloud seem to have come to an end. It isn't possible to roam onto BT Openzone using a The Cloud subscription, so that's not an option either for a customer who wants access to both. Certain Sky Broadband and Phones4U customers have inclusive access to The Cloud's pay hotspots and Nintendo DS consoles apparently have access as well.
As you posted, O2 users lost access to The Cloud some time ago. O2 have launched O2 Wi-Fi, which is actually free to all mobile users but only covers relatively few locations at present (some of which, notably McDonalds, used to be The Cloud). O2 Wi-Fi seems to be mainly a marketing tool for locations, though I have found the service to be pretty good when I've used it.
I have a Boingo UK and Ireland
account, which includes a wealth of Wi-Fi hotspots (with apps for most major mobile operating systems, also applications for Windows and OS X). It includes almost all BT Openzones, but has never included The Cloud in any time since I've been a customer, including before the BSkyB takeover. Judging by the Boingo directory, the latest position is that Boingo UK and Ireland customers can use The Cloud through Boingo but pay around 9p per minute for doing so. That's insanely expensive - three and a quarter hours at that price costs the same as a month of my high usage (3GBytes/month) O2 mobile broadband account charges.
As an aside, per minute is the daftest basis known for charging for Wi-Fi considering that an idle logged-in user is consuming no resource - though it's much easier to implement technically than charging by usage, which requires the wireless base stations that report usage accurately via RADIUS accounting and proper real-time handling of this data by the RADIUS server.
If the current Boingo web site directory is accurate, the UK and Ireland plan is nowhere near as good as it once was. Until recently, my experience was that if I had access to a UK hotspot with my Boingo account, there were no additional charges - though I've never tried to use The Cloud via Boingo. Certainly, I have never been charged for using the Wi-Fi in a Premier Inn (usually provided by Spectrum Interactive) or at a BT Openzone. It seems this has now changed - I quickly dug up examples of both Premier Inns and BT Openzones that supposedly now have per-minute charges, though the majority remain inclusive.
I can't use the BT Openzone access included in my O2 mobile broadband contract, because I use my laptop's integrated mobile broadband hardware and the O2 supplicant only works with O2 supplied hardware. However, I recently acquired 750MBytes of BT Openzone usage per month as part of my new Vodafone price plan, which is more than I am likely to use in any month.
With sizeable bundles on two mobile networks (3GBytes per month on my legacy O2 mobile broadband tariff (a deal no longer available for new customers) and 1GByte per month on my Vodafone mobile phone which has Wi-Fi personal hotspot capability), plus the 750MBytes of BT Openzone via my Vodafone account, I may well discontinue the Boingo account. Boingo had value to me because I used to feel fairly secure that if I came across particular hotspot brands, I had unlimited usage without further charge. If the Boingo directory is accurate, this is no longer the case. It seems that there is now an unacceptable degree of doubt as to whether I would be incurring per minute charges without checking each location in advance: there seems to be no reasoned basis over which locations have per minute charges and my experience is that the Boingo software often warns me the location may incur premium (per minute) charges when both the directory and previous experience said that hotspot was inclusive.
Premier Inn used to charge a ridiculous amount for casual Wi-Fi access, but most if not all of their locations now have a £20 'all you can eat for a month' deal, often with a cheaper price for 'all you can eat for a week'.
As Premier Inns are the only place I typically want prolonged Wi-Fi access, I will probably be better off getting rid of the Boingo plan (a few pence short of £120 a year) and paying the daily or weekly charge when staying at a Premier Inn (which I could have for six months before I'm out of pocket). This way, I will be certain what my Wi-Fi usage is costing me and will probably be much better off overall, even though I won't have the luxury of an app seamlessly logging my devices into available Wi-Fi. Elsewhere, I'll use my Vodafone BT Openzone access if I can, else use one of my mobile accounts. It's rare I'm in a location with no coverage on either O2 or Vodafone.
Another reason to get rid of Boingo is that subscriptions are automatically recurring - you can subscribe easily online, but have to phone to cancel. If you could subscribe for a month at a time, non-recurring, and opt out of any per-minute sites (so there's no risk of running up per minute charges in a location you believed to be inclusive), I'd be much more inclined to keep them.
Unfortunately, Wi-Fi hotspot service in the UK is an unregulated mess of competing commercial interests, with bundled deals and calculated refusal of roaming deals with competitors all designed to confuse the customer.
The situation is constantly changing - the basis on which you use a particular hotspot can change every time you visit. Often the available bandwidth on a paid hotspot is pathetic - if there is HSDPA or faster mobile coverage, I often find it faster to use the mobile network. So many hotspots seem to be little more than some wireless base stations sitting on the end of a high monthly allowance business ADSL2+ connection. Typically, I find there's a download bandwidth cap of around 1Mbit/second on many hotspots, meaning downloads and using cloud storage are painful, browsing certain data intensive sites such as the legal databases is like wading through treacle and video streaming is out of the question. However, 1Mbit/second is more than adequate to stream high bandwidth audio (depending on what I fancy listening to, BBC Radio 3 320kbit/second AAC live or 'catch up' streaming, also the high bandwidth option on Spotify Premium).
The mobile networks used to claim that they needed Wi-Fi hotspots to ease demand on their groaning 3G systems. However, they now seem to be putting all their investment into 4G rather than investing significant money in Wi-Fi. I guess that Wi-Fi coverage is not a sufficiently important part of a mobile phone contract for most customers to be worth the mobile networks spending any real money on. Meanwhile, many mobile networks continue to sell 'unlimited data' (subject to fair usage policy) contracts - I guess they're happy to let their customers fight it out for the available bandwidth rather than impose sensible up-front usage allowances. I'd rather be on a network that has data usage caps for everyone so that there is no shortage of bandwidth.
Does anyone else know of a decent multi-network Wi-Fi plan? I seem increasingly likely to join the mobile majority in eschewing the poor and overpriced hotspots we have, relying on my mobile accounts and bundled BT Openzone access.
Indeed, my experience is that public pay Wi-Fi seems to be on the wane in the UK, probably because people aren't prepared to pay £8-£15 per day for shared usage of an ADSL connection. The hotel where I spend some time each year on holiday has free Wi-Fi, as does my favourite theatre. My family spends its summer holiday a long way from any Wi-Fi, but there is finally decent 3G 900 coverage on O2 (I changed the mobile broadband card in my laptop for one that is 3G 900 capable to take advantage). Some former The Cloud pay locations are now free O2 Wi-Fi locations. Many coffee shops have reasonable free periods on their Wi-Fi, with loyalty card customers often having unlimited use. Business hotels increasingly have free Wi-Fi or you can buy access along with your room for very little.