O2 has unveiled its plans to launch O2 Wifi, a system of Wi-Fi hotspots in retailers and public spaces around the UK that will be free for anyone to use.

You won't even need to be an O2 customer to make use of the free Wi-Fi, with O2 aiming to make its money from venue partners instead of Joe Public.

In a similar style to BT Openzone and The Cloud, users will be able to connect to available Wi-Fi – but it won't cost them any money, just a few minutes of their time to sign up.

No one likes a stagnant Wi-Fi market

Gavin Franks, MD of O2 Wifi, told us, "We're going to transform the stagnant Wi-Fi market with O2 Wifi.

"Demands on public Wi-Fi have changed drastically over the last three years; it's no longer about getting your laptop out in a coffee shop for half an hour. Now people want to use it for five minutes in a shop to update their Facebook status instead.

"Our main aim was to make it better than what's already available; with consistent data speeds and a focus on usability. I genuinely believe it will transform the market and force The Cloud and BT Openzone to reassess their services."

Network strain

When asked if the move to open Wi-Fi was intended to relieve strain on O2's data networks, Tim Sefton, O2's New Business Development Director, emphatically denied that this was the case:

"Our network is in a really good position. We have no concerns about its capability to deliver the data capacity required by our customers," he said.

"Reducing strain on the network is a secondary benefit to the Wi-Fi network, and not a primary driver."

O2 also revealed that it is increasing its investment in the mobile network by 25 per cent in 2011, building on the £1m spent per day in 2010.

The O2 Wifi service will launch in O2 retail stores in March, with commercial partners, including shops and fast food chains, set to join the scheme in Q2.