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We want to stay online whenever and wherever we can. While staying online and connected is great, some large or unlimited data plans can work out to be costly. Luckily some mobile network providers in the UK offer free to use Wi-Fi Hotspots.
In this article, we’ll cover all the UK based networks with a free Wi-Fi service, as well as what kind of deals they offer based around this feature. We’ll also provide information on where to find these free Wi-Fi hotspots, how to connect to them and what limitations you might face.
Table of Contents
Mobile Network with Free Wi-Fi Hotspots
BT Mobile – BT Wi-Fi
BT Mobile stands atop of the list of free Wi-Fi with more than 5 million free Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK, plus another 3 million overseas. If this isn’t impressive enough, it’s also worth noting that BT has teamed up with a number of brands and other networks to provide even more free Wi-Fi access to its customers, both in the UK and abroad.
BT Wi-Fi is free to all BT Mobile and BT Broadband customers without any restrictions. BT says you’ll have unlimited data so you can download and upload as much as you like.
You’ll find BT’s free Wi-Fi hotspots at hotels, coffee shops, city centres, shopping malls as well as in homes where the majority of BT’s Wi-Fi hotspots are broadcast by regular BT Broadband and BT Business broadband customers. Thanks to this, finding a BT Mobile hotspot is easier than ever. Alternatively, you can use BT Mobile’s Hotspot Finder to discover the nearest hotspots to you.
To access these free Wi-Fi hotspots, you must download the BT Wi-Fi app and register once. From that moment on you’ll connect to Wi-Fi hotspots automatically. Non BT customers can also use the network’s Wi-Fi service on demand, but they’ll have to pay £5 for an hour, £8 for a day, £18 for 5 days or £40 for 30 days. These deals only offer limited access though, and you can only connect with one device.
BT Mobile customers also enjoy the best 4G and 5G network coverage in the UK and fastest data speeds, thanks to EE’s unrivalled infrastructure. We strongly recommend checking BT Mobile’s family plans too, and make sure to read our BT Mobile Review if you want to know more.
O2 – O2 WiFi & O2 WiFi Extra
We think O2’s free Wi-Fi service is quite good and it’s available to everyone whether you’re an O2 customer or not! The carrier provides more than 16,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots across the country and it’s super easy to use too.
There are of course some key differences between what O2 customers get from this service and others who aren’t. For starters O2 customers automatically connect to these Wi-Fi hotspots if the signal is stronger than the 3G/4G in the area, meanwhile other mobile network users must register and connect manually. However, the main key difference is the O2 WiFi Extra feature. This perk improves your overall voice call quality and does this seamlessly. Whenever the hotspot signal is stronger, your phone will automatically connect and allow you to make higher definition voice calls. At the moment, WiFi Extra is available in over 4000 locations. You can disable this feature, but it works great so it’s highly unlikely that you’ll want to opt out.
O2’s free Wi-Fi hotspots can be found in highstreet shops, McDonalds, Debenhams, Costa Coffee, Subway, William Hill, Sainsbury’s and many other places. O2 customers can also use Virgin Mobile’s London Underground hotspots for free.
Sky Mobile – The Cloud
Sky Mobile’s free Wi-Fi hotspot service is called ‘The Cloud’ and it’s live in around 20,000 locations in the UK, as well as some other destinations in the EU. The Cloud launched way back in January 2003, but it was acquired by BSkyB in 2011. The service has over 22,000 Wi-Fi hotspot access points in the UK and it continues to expand.
For the most part The Cloud is a free service, but at some locations you’ll be charged for access. To use this service you must sign up once and from that moment on you’ll connect automatically. You can turn off the auto connect option if you wish. Just make sure to read on screen instructions carefully and you’ll be good to go.You can use Sky WiFi’s Hotspot Finder to locate the nearest hotspot to you.
We’d recommend discovering more about Sky Mobile, as the network offers one of the best data rollover features in the UK. You also get unlimited data for streaming Sky Apps and decent 4G & 5G coverage from O2. If you wish to discover more about the network, head on to our extensive Sky Mobile Review.
Virgin Mobile – Virgin Media Wi-Fi
Virgin Mobile has over 3.5 million free Wi-Fi hotspots and just like BT Mobile the carrier is providing most of these hotspots through its broadband customers. Virgin Mobile’s hotspots are exclusive to Virgin Media customers though, except the London Underground ones. The carrier’s free WiFi is available in 250+ London Underground stations, and more than 79 London Overground stations. The latter service is provided by The Cloud.
To benefit from this feature you must first download the Virgin Media Connect app and sign in. From that point on the app will remember your settings and connect you automatically when you’re in range of a free Wi-Fi hotspot. You won’t have to deal with usernames or passwords. You’ll also get free Wi-Fi abroad too, including popular destinations such as the US.
Virgin Mobile’s hotspots come with fair usage limits and there are some other certain restrictions too. Virgin Media blocks any content which they deem unsuitable for young people.
We strongly suggest reading our Virgin Mobile Review before making your final decision on joining the network though. Powered by EE, the network offers some other high value perks and our review can help you find the most suitable deal for you.
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EE, Three & Vodafone – Virgin Media’s London Underground Hotspots
The four major network operators in the UK benefit from Virgin Media’s London Underground hotspots. If you’re with EE, Three, Vodafone or O2 you can use these hotspots for free. This of course doesn’t include Virgin Mobile’s other hotspots, which are exclusive to Virgin Media customers. EE, Three and Vodafone customers can use O2’s free Wi-Fi hotspots, but that’s not an exclusive deal, as all the other MVNOs have free access to these hotspots too.
Eligible EE plans used to offer free Wi-Fi hotspots thanks to BT, but the deal was withdrawn and it no longer exists. Having said that, the network offers high value, large data plans as well as unlimited deals. Have a read of our EE Review to discover more about the largest mobile network in the UK.
Vodafone also offered access to some of BT’s free Wi-Fi hotspots at one point, but not anymore. While the provider doesn’t offer any free Wi-Fi, it provides great coverage and international roaming perks. Read our extensive Vodafone Review to discover more!
As for Three, Wi-Fi hotspots are few and far between, but the network offers some of the best unlimited data plans in the UK and they come at super competitive prices. You can read our Three Review to find out all the great features Three offers, such as 5G coverage at no extra cost!.
Where to Find Free Wi-Fi Hotspots?
In the UK, most free Wi-Fi hotspots can be found in public places like restaurants, airports, hospitals, libraries & shopping centres.
You can also access Virgin Mobile’s free Wi-Fi at 260 London Underground Stations, and The Cloud’s 79 London Overground Stations. Keep in mind, your internet won’t work in the tunnels, only at the ticket halls, stations, corridors and platforms.
How to Connect to Free Wi-Fi Hotspots?
First things first, you must enable Wi-Fi on your mobile device or else there’s no way your device can connect to these hotspots.
After that, make sure you’re in an area with a free Wi-Fi hotspot and then check the available connections. Find the correct name, register if you need to and connect to it. You’ll probably need an app for this step, but it depends on the network. Once connected most providers will remember your device and connect you automatically whenever the hotspot signal is available, but there are exceptions of course.
If your device doesn’t automatically connect to a free hotspot after registering, you might have to do things manually. You can also try turning off your Wi-Fi and then turning it back on again. A simple trick, but we found it to work quite often.
Mobile Networks Without Free Wi-Fi Hotspots?
Unfortunately most mobile virtual networks don’t offer any free Wi-Fi hotspots. MVNOs tend to offer competitive prices, but they end up making cuts to features like Wi-Fi Calling, 4G Calling and free Wi-Fi hotspots. On the bright side, in most cases there are no credit checks if you wish to get a SIM from these carriers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is free Wi-Fi really free?
Well, yes and no. It depends on the network you’re getting your Wi-Fi from. For example, O2’s Wi-Fi is truly free for everyone. The Cloud also offers free Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK. However, BT Wi-Fi is only free to BT customers. The same goes for Virgin Mobile’s free Wi-Fi hotspots, except the London Underground service.
Are Wi-Fi hotspots safe?
No, they are not. Free Wi-Fi hotspots are open and unsecure connections. You should be extra careful when you’re using these connections and make sure to avoid things like online shopping, paying your bills, banking etc. Use these hotspots for your everyday activities and don’t forget to activate your device’s built-in security softwares.
Does SMARTY have free Wi-Fi hotspots?
No, unfortunately SMARTY doesn’t offer any free Wi-Fi at the moment. Neither does the host network Three. However, Three customers have access to Virgin Media’s free Wi-Fi at over 260 London Underground Stations.
Does EE offer free Wi-Fi?
No, not anymore. EE used to allow their customers to connect to BT Openzone, but this feature was withdrawn some time ago.
Does Vodafone have free Wi-Fi?
No, just like EE, Vodafone used to offer a free Wi-Fi deal, but that offer no longer exists.
How much do Wi-Fi hotspots cost a day or a month?
We can only speak for BT Mobile here, as the others are either for free or their prices depend on the location. BT charges £5 for an hour, £8 for a day, £18 for 5 days or £40 for 30 days.