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back to article O2's free Wi-Fi in detail: How free is free exactly?

On Wednesday O2 announced that it would be rolling out a free Wi-Fi network, paid for by venues hosting it and backed by advertising model that deserves a little more attention. First, to clarify, this offering isn't limited to smartphones or O2 customers – if you're with Vodafone and want to connect your laptop for free then …

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Pint

sms filter

If there isn't already an android app out there to automagically block sms's from certain senders then it surely can't be that difficult to write one... The splash screen advertising will of course already be blocked by adblock on your laptop or whatever your favourite ad blocking plugin is and similar things are available for (rooted) android phones already.

So, free beer on O2's veranda.

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Anonymous Coward

FAIL

"The splash screen advertising will of course already be blocked by adblock on your laptop or whatever your favourite ad blocking plugin is"

You think do you? The splash screen will be required in order to authorize your session, so if you don't see the ad you don't get a wifi connection. That's how I'd do it anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmmm

If I was planning this I'd put an authorisation code in the SMS, so you have to read it to use the service. Nothing complicated a 3 or 4 character code at the end. Would also ensure the person using the WIFI was the legit "owner" of the account as they'd need the phone to use it. giving some traceback in case of abuse.

If folks go round the adverts and the service folds for lack of revenue who will be the ones to blame?

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Bronze badge

Too much Friday beer limits brain power

"The MAC address is an Ethernet thing ... you can change to your heart's content and probably steal a bit of free Wi-Fi from the free Wi-Fi network, which seems a little pointless"

Hardly pointless if you can choose a MAC address of a registered customer. You get the connection, they get the advertising.

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Bronze badge

Re : choose a MAC address of a registered customer

and your going to find out this other random persons MAC how?

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Sniff sniff

Sniff sniff... Uhm... tasty... and a few passwords and cookies as well.. Sniff... sniff...

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"You can opt out of O2 Wi-Fi altogether"

Nice to see someone at O2 has a sense of humor :)

I wonder if they will check that the messages are received, if I have already thought of just using a free PAYG SIM to register to aviod the ads then I'm sure plenty of others will.

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WTF?

Not really..

I'm sure most people, myself included, really will not be bothered to or simply not have the technical logic required to swap SIMs for the sake of avoiding a few adverts.

I don't see the fuss about adverts that a lot of people on here make, it's not like they are destroying your health or your computer. And if everyone went around with ad-blocking on their browsers then all the free websites we know and love would have to find an alternative revenue stream e.g. directly charging the users and no doubt there would be an uproar about that.

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Anonymous Coward

I hate adverts...

Presumably there's nothing which says that the SMS adverts have to be delivered? So all you do is buy one of those cheapo payg sims in Poundland or wherever for a couple of quid, pop it into the phone while you register your laptop and get the code, then remove sim and start surfing with no future annoying sms adverts on your real mobile.

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Anonymous Coward

Not just SMS

The adverts won't just be by SMS, they will also be on the WiFi network splash screen. And they will be able to serve that up as often as they like.

It works like this: You connect to the network and whatever the first page you try to access you get redirected to a splash screen - you won't be able to block the splash screen because you you will need to click something to continue to your requested page. If O2 are being really smart they'll make sure you have to load the whole page for this to work. The provider can do this sort of redirecting as often as they like. It could be timed, say every half hour. It could counted, say every twenty page requests. It could even be random.

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WTF?

Different networks, different rules...

"All UK mobile operators are required to block access to pornography and other adult services over their mobile networks until the customer presents proof of age, but it seems the same company can provide internet access over Wi-Fi without any such obligation: a strange double standard that surely can't be allowed to continue."

I strongly disagree ! The regulation is based on the network type, not on the company and it is wrong to suggest the something like porn filtering should be something applied to O2 as a company due to mobile rules.

After all O2 provide home broadband don't they ? Are you suggesting that just because O2 handle mobile traffic that their home broadband should be proof of age too ?

Sorry, not a particually well thought out statement there sir...

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Silver badge

Re: Different networks, different rules...

You need to prove you are over 18 for home broadband anyway, to show you have legal capacity to enter into a contract. Anybody can walk into Carphone Warehouse with a bundle of cash and buy a PAYG modem.

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Coat

Ok, point taken....

... I'll wind my neck in and get my coat :)

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Adverts - If you don't want them, PAY

What is with you lot? The first sign of anything that is ad-funded (and thus free at point of use) and youa ll start moaning on about advertising and blocking it.

Well it you don't like advertising, PAY UP and pay for the services you use.

I quite like this idea and I'm amazed nobody has done it sooner. I can cope with the whole one screen tap it takes to mark a text message unread when I walk past a WiFi hotspot, if it means that when I want to get online and not have to pay for the privelidge.

There is one vital piece of missing information though: When does it launch? And where? Because if it's London then I will literally kill myself - Birmingham is crying out for a decent network of WiFi anyway, and if it's free then even better.

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Silver badge

Pay Up

I like your thinking.

o it's going to be interesting to see if O2 provide a Pay service to drive competition in the market. I'd exect the margins on the advertsing to be smaller than the existing consumer services, so O2 should be able to undercut.

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Bronze badge
Headmaster

"The MAC address is an Ethernet thing"

I thought that the Media Access Control address was a network interface thing. If it was only for Ethernet you could change it to your heart's content without having much effect on the Wi-Fi (wireless) connection.

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Anonymous Coward

one of my pet hates

".....modern smartphones constantly monitor for Wi-Fi networks"

Who leaves wifi switched on?

Probably the same peeps with bluetooth on all the time. They deserve malware and security problems associated with doing this.

Save your battery and turn wifi and bluetooth off when not in direct use.

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Silver badge

one of my pet hates

Really? It bothers you that much that Other people use Their phones in a manner that does not identically match your own. Why not just force everyone to turn off their Wifi and Bluetooth!

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I leave it on....

as i am constantly in and out of wifi spots and have a super little bedside charger so no power issues here thank you very much!

Bluetooth on the other hand.....twice in the last year....maybe....

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Flame

Your pet hates ...

Grow up and get a fucking life! Who gives a toss about your pet hates?

If I want to leave my WiFi on all of the time - and I do, 24x7x365 with no detriment to my battery - it is entirely up to me. Who died and made you God? We certainly do not require your particular approval or blessing. Sheesh!!

It really is mind boggling that you even have a modern smartphone, coming out with nonsense like that.

NB: I don't often, if at all, rant. But you've helped me make an exception to my rule. Twat.

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Thumb Down

@Obviously!

RE: "Who leaves wifi switched on?"

I do. (And it seems I'm not the only one).

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FAIL

Err..

I can't honestly believe ElReg thought they needed to explain what a MAC address was to their readership anyway. Is that just for the IS managers that might be sneaking a peak?

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WTF?

MAC Address

Not so sure you can change a MAC address, as it is physically allocated to the ethernet card, and in theory globally unique. The first half relates to the manufacturer the second relates to that specific card.

Or at least that's how it used to work

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Silver badge
Headmaster

Can be spoofed

MAC addresses can be spoofed, although I think support for this is dependent on the hardware? In Windows for example, the MAC address field can be set for many cards using the Device Manager and many wireless routers also provide an option to input a custom MAC for their WAN interface.

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IT Angle

Re: MAC Address

"Not so sure you can change a MAC address"

You can. You might need to emulate the network card in software to do so, or use 'special' drivers, but choosing your own MAC address has been around for a while now.

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Just use a real OS

# ifconfig bge0 ether XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX

Job done.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just use a real OS

Exactly. I have even been known to swap the addresses on my laptop and iPhone on occasion, works wonders while waiting for a flight at Heathrow...

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Silver badge
Coat

Change MAC address

People old enough to remember DECnet (the protocol used by VMS* machines) may know that it changed the MAC address to an encoded version of the DECnet address. Presumably it had no equivalent to ARP.

I used to know how to derive a MAC address from a DECnet address, but I'm glad to say this information has given its memory space to something more useful.

*Not just VMS, actually. We had MS-DOS PCs with DECnet addresses.

Mine's the mac (ho ho) with the 10.37 address.

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Happy

...depending on flavour of Unix/Linux....

ifconfig eth0 hw ether xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx

ifconfig wlan0 hw ether xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx

ifconfig ath0 hw ether xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx

etc.

Very useful the other day when it would appear that TheCloud don't allow a Sony Ericsson MAC address on their "free" network, for some bizare reason (58:17:0C:XX:XX:XX).

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Silver badge

Not just MS-Dos

We used to have loads of Win3.11 PCs running with DECnet. It was a real pain having to switch mental gears from DECnet to IP depending where on site the PC was. Glad that is a thing of the past.

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Go

(untitled)

The Win7 installation via Parallels on my MacBook shares the same MAC hardware address. Or not, should I choose to untick the relevant box.

[oh no, I've admitted I have a Mac. And use Windows as well. Quick, where's that AC box...]

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Badgers

@TakeTheSkyRoad

"After all O2 provide home broadband don't they ? Are you suggesting that just because O2 handle mobile traffic that their home broadband should be proof of age too ?"

You aren't allowed to get home broadband and sign into a contract unless you are over 18! That is surely proof enough? The argument could be made for contract pay monthly mobile phone's where you still have to provide proof of age to surf the pr0nz, BUT mummy and or Daddy can be talked into getting a jebusphone for the sprogs on a contract so they don't get picked on at school and can then in turn ring mummy or daddy when they are being picked on without fear of them running out of credit, thus the age check is still necessary!

The point is if this is going to blanket the UK O2 could find themselves in a sticky situation when someone complains that there 13 year old off spring has been watching pr0n on O2's free wifi that they have been filtering out at home!

This is line gives you the reason for that concern.. "When you first connect to the O2 Wi-Fi network, you'll be presented with a request for your name and mobile number."

So registration without address, age, proof of age, biometrics, NHS no, bra size, shoe size, mothers maiden name, inside leg measurement is an option! Thus a free internet for all regardless of age and content genre, i'm all for free internet's, i am all for open content genre, i am not all for kids looking at pr0nz, not many people are, that's why its illegal!

O2, please think of the children!

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Stop

Wonder if...

...this is bypassable using ssh over DNS? The crippled speed might make it not worth it, but would be interesting to see technically!

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Silver badge

3 things

geekclick: ending every sentence! with an exclamation? or a question! makes you look silly. Also: not illegal for kids to look at porn, illegal to give porn to kids. There's a difference.

King Ed: SSH over DNS? Run that one by me again, I wasn't aware that DNS had a new tunneling extension.

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title

You can run sshd on the port of your choice, not just the default one.

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Here.

http://www.room362.com/blog/2009/3/10/ozymandns-tunneling-ssh-over-dns.html

As I unnderstand it (not having set it up myself), the software encodes the ssh data into ascii, and sends it as a subdomain to a domain you control the DNS for, the response comes from the DNS server in the txt record.

Many of these unsecured-wireless-pay-for-access systems allow the DNS traffic through before blocking the site from loading. Thus tunneling over DNS gets around the paywall. Unfourtunately, this method is not exactly the most efficient, or the uickest!

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Boffin

@geekclick

A child can already browse pron using a 3G dongle and payg sim, if they're holding folding, or sit near a pub or coffee shop with free wifi, or get some parabolic cookware and find a klutz neighbor with unsecured wifi, or use a proxy at school, and so on.

That horse bolted long ago, not that I think it's a good thing.

Didn't your school have a bike shed or pavilion? We used to use a low-tech system called adult magazines...

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Thumb Up

The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

http://www.dnstunnel.de/

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FAIL

Complete Fucking Bullshit, O2 DOES packet sniff / URL block

"But at least O2 won't be tracking usage or browsing habits, nor will it be filtering content beyond what's legal and in contrast to the mobile network."

I have a work O2 Crackberry -- can access EVERYTHING no matter how much non-work approved content, very objectionable content, etc.

I have a personal 02 iPhone4 -- has LOTS of sites blocked, E.G. CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) and a lot of stuff that ain't blocked for my work Crackberry and I'm on a contract.

02 says I will have to PAY THEM to unblock my personal mobile to view WHAT I WANT as they block URL's / packet sniff. This policy according to the idiots on their 0800 service is EXACTLY the same for URL's.

So feck of, you've not got it right or you're drinking their bong water.

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Big Brother

@s.pam

Blackberry internet access is done via RIM's servers, other phones typically use the mobile network directly to reach the target website.

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Paris Hilton

"I have a personal 02 iPhone4"

Me too and I've not seen anything blocked on O2 via 3G, including numerous adult sites with streaming video.

That 500MB download limit is a killer though...

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Anonymous Coward

"a strange double standard that surely can't be allowed to continue"

Indeed not. Requiring "proof of age" from people already old enough to enter into a contract? How patronizing. Drop the censorship.

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Bronze badge
WTF?

I don't get it

If they're not trying to limit it to either smart phones or their own customers, what is the purpose of requiring the use of text messaging? They just want everybody to carry an extra device?

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Some letters, 4nd a digit

For mobile advertising revenues, and so there is something to link the account to, presumably..

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Silver badge

a strange double standard that surely can't be allowed to continue.

Ssssshhhhhhhhh......

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Stop

Encrypt my Wi-Fi Bitch

I'm not interested in public wifi any more.. remember firesheep anyone?

If the SMS I receive has a WPA2 code I'm all for it, otherwise NO!!!

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Stop

Get yourself a Linux VPS...

...Download putty, and tunnel over SSH.

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Go

Get yourself a Linux VPS...

... and set OpenVPN up. Bonus that it routes everything*, not only SOCKS-aware programs.

* including streaming flash video, if you know what I mean :)

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I'm with you there

"So O2's free Wi-Fi network really is free at the point of delivery, and we can probably put up with receiving a text message every time we try to use it, though if that turns out to be every time we walk past a store offering O2's branded access then it could get too annoying to tolerate."

It sounds like a nightmare in the making what with constant connections/disconnections, SMS, MMS (not that they'll) track you everywhere and also O2 lets you use the Cloud for free on a wi-fi and data tariff but is that still the case now that Sky have bought it (the cloud).

Personally, I've never been able to get past the landing page on any of their so-called free offerrings and I'm considering if this is as bad as I think.

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