Figures released by The Cloud, the Wifi operator owned by BSkyB, bear out the sense that public hotspots have rapidly become an important way for many of us to get online.
The firm said on Friday that use of its hotspots on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day was three times higher this year in terms of minutes spent online than during the same three days in 2011.
Christmas Eve was particularly busy – four times busier than last year – as shoppers and party goers used hotspots on high streets, and in restaurants and bars. The Cloud’s network covers JD Wetherspoons pubs, Pizza Express and the Westfield shopping centres.
Although these figures cover only one provider in a crowded market, 2012 was clearly a vintage year for public Wifi.
In London, for instance, London Underground and Overground stations got hotspots, Westminster council did a deal with O2 to blanket the West End, and Transport for London approved a plan to offer free Wifi in exchange for viewing advertisements in black cabs.
Microsoft-owned Skype said it would install free hotspots in shops nationwide, and BT continued to build out what it says is the biggest public Wifi network in the world, helped by its broadband subscribers, who it encourages to allow other customers to use their Home Hub to access the internet. Virgin Media Business is bringing free public Wifi to Leeds and Bradford.
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