In today’s digital age, being online is much like being alive. Having an online presence and all-time availability is essential for businesses and individuals alike. More than 92% of adults in the UK are internet users, with 53 million active social media users. The way our lives have been shaped over the last decade, everything has drastically shifted to the internet, from shopping to products and services. And if away from home or office, you’ll probably be looking for a free Wi-Fi hotspot to have strong internet connectivity in the UK.
Today more than six billion people use smartphones, with the numbers growing in double digits each year. Every innovation has its fair share of problems, which necessitates figuring out the solution. That’s where the Wi-Fi hotspot comes into play, offering a physical location for anyone to use their devices to connect to high-speed internet, even being away from home. Usually, you’ll find Wi-Fi hotspots in places like coffee shops, railway stations, subways, airports, hotels, and other such places where people congregate.
You can enjoy free Wi-Fi service almost everywhere in the UK, with over 10 million WiFi hotspots in the country. Let’s explore how you can benefit from the internet hotspots and how to sign on to any given Wi-Fi hotspot.
- What is a free WiFi hotspot?
- How can I get a free hotspot?
- How does free Wi-Fi work?
- What are the risks with free Wi-Fi?
- Where to find free Wi-Fi hotspots
- Free Wi-Fi hotspot providers in the UK
What is a free WiFi hotspot?
A Wi-Fi hotspot is an internet access point allowing you to connect to the Wi-Fi network using your smartphone, computer, or any other device. These free WiFi hotspots help people to use faster internet connections than the often-unstable cellular networks.
Using a free Wi-Fi hotspot, you can save your mobile data allowance while enjoying high-speed internet on the go. However, it’s only possible if there are a lot of free Wi-Fi hotspots available in your area.
Different Types of Wi-Fi Hotspots
Typically, Wi-Fi hotspots are almost similar in terms of performance; yet a few differences on a minor level distinguish them from each other. Here are the most common types of Wi-Fi Hotspots available.
Public Wi-Fi Hotspots
Wi-Fi hotspots available in coffee shops, libraries, and other retail stores are usually known as Public Wi-Fi hotspots. Besides, municipal governments also give free access to hotspots to their patrons in some particular selected areas.
Mob Wi-Fi hotspots
You may use your mobile phones, including iPhone or other Android, like a Wi-Fi hotspot. Only you have to turn on this feature, and the phone will start creating a Wi-Fi hotspot by using its cellular data. With this, you can connect any of your other devices, such as a computer, and get free internet access.
How can I get a free hotspot?
While living in the Uk, accessing a free hotspot connection isn’t difficult, as many public places, including airports, libraries, shopping malls, hotels, and hospitals, offer free connectivity. If you are at a specific local place like the underground stations of London 260, you can access Virgin Mob’s free Wi-Fi. Or if you are at overground 79 London, then Cloud’s Wi-Fi is for you.
- Open your computer or mobile phone and turn on the Wi-Fi.
- Check the near accessibility option list of networks.
- Click on a Wi-Fi hotspot that is directly connectable.
How does free Wi-Fi work?
Free Wi-Fi works the same as your home or other paid wireless Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi hotspot’s range, speed, and power vary depending on the area, but the working mechanism is similar. A wireless access point interlinks the computers and other devices through radio signals. Internet is connected to this Wi-Fi accessing point, and this point connects with a router that regulates who can get access to this free Wi-Fi. For performing this, standardised sending and receiving of signals are used of 80211 standards made by IEEE.
What are the risks with free Wi-Fi?
Accessing free Wi-Fi holds many risks as data isn’t encrypted. Encryption is a primary key to security when it comes to wireless connectivity. Without this, your data is prone to hackers, and personal information may get leaked. Therefore, avoid essential tasks like online shopping, bill payment, and other banking while connecting with free Wi-Fi. On the other hand, while using it for other entertainment purposes, you must activate the device’s built-in security programs to lessen the risks. Go with multiple passwords and a user name strategy to ensure your personal information’s confidentiality and make you feel secure while using a free Wi-Fi hotspot.
Hotspot Protection types
Three types of security technologies are usually found to prevent your data from being hacked or leaked. WEP, the Wired Equivalent Privacy, is the oldest securing technology; it is also the least secure type. The second type is WPA, the Wi-Fi Protected Access; it offers a little protection but is outdated now. Lastly, WPA2 is the most used securing technology that ensures the highest security of your data.
Where to find free Wi-Fi hotspots
Some of the biggest free Wi-Fi hotspot providers like BT Wi-Fi and Virgin Media Connect are accessible only to existing customers. However, BT also offers a subscription-based model as well.
There are thousands of hotspot locations nationwide offered by Sky Wi-Fi and O2 Wi-Fi which users can hop on to enjoy lightning-fast internet connectivity.
EE, Three, and giffgaff offer free Wi-Fi service only on the London Underground via the Virgin Media network.
Free Wi-Fi hotspot providers in the UK
Numerous mobile network providers in the UK offer free Wi-Fi access through a network of hotspots spread across the country. Most of these hotspots are free to use, while others already require users to be customers of the same network.
Overall, there are more than 10 million Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK. Some are free, while others need you to be on the same network or subscribe to the service.
British Telecommunications (BT), including the Everything Everywhere (EE), is the largest network in the UK, with over 28% market share. Similarly, it’s the biggest free Wi-Fi hotspot provider in the country. It offers over 5 million Wi-Fi hotspots via the BT network. However, the hotspots are only accessible to customers for free already on the network. If you’re not on BT’s network, you’ll need to pay to use the Wi-Fi hotspot.
There are two types of hotspots from BT – Premium hotspots and BT Hub hotspots.
Around 9,500 of the hotspots from BT are Premium ones, primarily dedicated to places such as street shops. Customers of BT Business Broadband, BT Broadband, and BT Mobile can enjoy both types of Wi-Fi hotspots for free.
Customers only have to download the BT Wi-Fi app from Google Play Store or Apple App Store. After that, they can automatically connect their mobile phones and tablets to any of the hotspots whenever in range. These apps can also help customers to find the nearest hotspots.
However, for non-BT customers, the BT Wi-Fi hotspots can be accessed after paying for the service. Customers can purchase access through BT’s website. The on-demand prices vary depending on the duration you need the service. The prices are as below:
BT also offers long-term subscription models for 3- and 12-months subscription plans.
The Wi-Fi hotspots are free to access for all BT customers and are a definite perk.
O2 is amongst the largest providers of free Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK, serving over 16,000 hotspots. Many of these hotspots are available at places like shops, restaurants, and public venues. The hotspot coverage is also available on the London Underground.
Anyone can use the O2 Wi-Fi hotspots without any limitations on being an O2 customer. To access the Wi-Fi, customers only have to select the O2 network in the list of available nearby networks. Register with their phone number to gain instant access to the free hotspot.
A key benefit of being an O2 customer with an O2 SIM is:
O2 handsets can automatically connect to more than 7,000 hotspot locations whenever they’re in range. However, it’ll only happen when the Wi-Fi signal is stronger than the mobile network signal. So, there’s no hassle of registering and making the connectivity seamless and strong always. You can search for all nearby O2 Wi-Fi hotspots on the website.
EE offers free Wi-Fi hotspots only in the London Underground, provided by Virgin Media. So, EE customers can access free Wi-Fi hotspot if they are eligible and fulfil the following criteria:
- All EE Pay as Monthly customers who don’t have any arrears or haven’t been classified as having bad debt.
- Any EE Pay as You Go (PAYG) customer who has topped up their account with at least £5 in the last 30 days.
With its “Stay Connected plan”, EE offers customers EE connected devices or pay monthly data SIMs with a facility to access limited mobile data speeds of 0.5Mbps even after their monthly data runs out. Allowing users with the facility to browse, check emails, or navigate using maps.
Giffgaff customers can enjoy free Wi-Fi services on the London Underground. Similarly, customers with an active giffgaff SIM can utilise over 8,000 Wi-Fi Extra hotspots all over the country provided by O2. Customers have to download the Wi-Fi Extra app through the official giffgaff app. Whereas Android phone and tablet users will need to set some extra security settings to be able to use the free Wi-Fi services.
Cloud, another name for this free Sky Wi-Fi hotspot, provides free accessibility to people in the UK. Food outlets, hospitals, pubs, and other public venues are included. However, there is no availability on the London Underground. Apart from the Sky users, customers of many other networks can also access Sky Wi-Fi for free anywhere.
Virgin Media is the second most popular network nationwide, having almost 43 million hotspots connectivity. Places included are shops, restaurants, cable cabinets, airports, and 250 London Underground stations. Only one condition is applied that is you must be an existing customer may be of Virgin Mob or Virgin Broadband. Users have to download the app (Virgin Media Connect) that offers home broadband network management. One drawback of this hotspot network is that it doesn’t have any accessible hotspot checker on Virgin Website. So, all the searching was only performed by using the singing up to the connect app.
Provided by Virgin Media, Three customers can connect free hotspots on the London Underground. Before having this free Wi-Fi hotspot accessibility, customers must pay their bills on time. Furthermore, for using this, a customer must use his account for calling, sending texts, or other data usage purposes within the first thirty days. Lastly, it is only available for people going to the Underground regularly, so there is no additional area accessibility.
Here’s a table illustration about Free WiFi Hotspot providers and access throughout the UK.
|BT||Only for customers|
|Virgin Media||Only for customers|
|Virgin Media||For London Underground|
|EE||For London Underground|
|Giffgaff||For London Underground|
Is free Wi-Fi free?
It depends on your network type. For instance, if you choose O2 or Cloud network for free Wi-Fi access, then Yes, definitely, it’s free of charge across the UK. At the same time, BT is only accessible to existing BT customers having a subscription. The same case is found in the Virgin Mobile network that is only accessible on the London Underground and is restricted to the existing customers. Besides, this complimentary type of Wi-Fi is available for booking hotel rooms or getting involved in any club membership.
Is BT Wi-Fi free on o2?
Firstly, it was free to use BT Wi-Fi on O2. However, from the first of July, it is no longer accessible for BT customers to access free Wi-Fi via o2.
How to get O2 Wi-Fi?
To connect with the O2 Wi-Fi for free, you have to follow these simple steps;
- Go to the device Wi-Fi settings
- Select the “O2 Wi-Fi.”
- Open your web browser “Chrome” or “Safari.”
- Follow the steps shown on the screen for registering as an O2 user
As the welcome page appears on your display screen, you are connected to the free O2 Wi-Fi hotspot. Furthermore, if you are already an existing customer of O2, you are automatically connected to the O2 Wi-Fi hotspots as it provides free boundless Wi-Fi connection to its subscribed users.