A worldwide roaming agreement between four of the world’s biggest wireless operators has given the Wi-Fi hotspot market a shot in the arm.
U.K.-based BT Group PLC; StarHub Ltd. of Singapore; T-Mobile International AG, which operates in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the U.S.; Australia’s Telstra Corp. Ltd.; and Telecom Italia SpA, under the auspices of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), all agreed to share hotspots — meaning that any of their customers should have instant access to over 20,000 hotspots in 11 countries across the globe.
Each company has announced the agreement individually, and although all have agreed not to charge other people’s customers for access for the rest of this year, charges — as yet unannounced — will be introduced in 2005. As such, while all benefit from the others’ infrastructure, the company with most hotspots — in this case T-Mobile — remains in the strongest position.
BT and its Openzone service is not far behind, however, having already agreed a roaming agreement with T-Mobile earlier this month, as well as others with The Cloud (U.K.), Telia Homerun (Sweden), Sonera Homerun (Finland) and Airpath (U.S.).
All customers of the WBA members should in theory be able to login at any international WBA location as if logging on to the company’s own hotspot, simply by selecting their operator from a drop-down list and sticking in their name and password.
BT Openzone U.K. currently charges