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How to find free WiFi hotspots in the UK

If you enjoy using the internet on your smartphone for web browsing, downloading files, streaming videos and other heavy content, then unless you use an unlimited data plan, you’ll likely be all too familiar to hitting your contract’s data cap. One of the best ways to get the most from rich online content when accessing it from a smartphone, is to connect to a WiFi network, like the one at home for example.

But what if you’re you’re not near a familiar WiFi network and you can’t connect over mobile data? You need a WiFi hotspot.

Motorola RAZR MAXX with WiFi networks on display. London Regent Street O2 UK WiFi hotspot

What is a WiFi hotspot?

WiFi hotspots can be found in all manner of places and are designed to offer wireless internet to devices capable of connecting to them, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Where can I find a WiFi hotspot?

Depending where you are, large towns and cities are more likely to offer a greater range of WiFi hotspots. Certain shops and restaurants have taken to offering WiFi access to customers so that they can browse, read emails and use their phones as they would at home whilst the eating and drinking. Chains such as Starbucks are a reliable locale for WiFi hotspots but all manner of places offer them.

With the arrival of the Olympics in London this year, companies like O2 and Virgin have created large areas covered by WiFi hotspots with which the public are free to use, but they’re not the only companies offering such a service.

O2 has covered key retail areas of London like South Kensington, whilst Virgin has recently rolled out WiFi access for all across 80 London underground stations with a planned 120 by the year’s end.

Finding where your nearest WiFi hotspot is and whether it will cost you can be found with these helpful links:

Find the location of O2 hotspots here.

Find the location of The Cloud hotspots here.

Find the location of BT Openzone hotspots here.

Find the location of Virgin hotspots here.

Do WiFi hotspots cost money?

For the most part, WiFi hotspots such as those we’ve already mentioned from O2, Virgin and found at the likes of Starbucks are typically free but there are instances where users need to pay to use them. Companies like BT and BSkyB already have a network of active hotspots that you can connect to too.

BSkyB’s The Cloud, is free to use for all Sky Broadband Unlimited customers as well as 4UWiFi customers and Nintendo 3DS owners, but outside of these instances venues who offer a Cloud WiFi hotspot may charge, although this is governed on a case by case basis. BT Openzone hotspots are also free in particular instances but users can also purchase time or data allowances for use across the entire hotspot network if they so wish.

How do I connect to a WiFi hotspot?

Depending on the WiFi hotspot you’re trying to access, there are a number of ways to register. Free, open-to-all networks such as those found in Starbucks or Virgin’s London Underground sites simply require you enter an email address and confirm to their terms and conditions before you’re given access to them for a certain period of time. Accessing a paid WiFi hotspot will require either an existing account entered into a login screen or the setup or a new account complete with access to a billable account with which you can buy data or time allowance.

Connecting to any WiFi network whether it be public or private, makes use of a the same process on your smartphone. On Android devices the available WiFi network list, where your nearest hotspots will appear, is found in the Settings application, whilst on iOS devices, users need to head to Settings > Wi-Fi to see the same list.

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