Free at the front of any product generally grabs peoples attention and Skype is making greater use of the word as it launches its Free Skype WiFi service in the UK and Ireland. This will provide free Internet access at locations that offer the Skype WiFi service, once you sign in with your Skype username and password.
The service is built around shops, cafes and businesses buying a service from Wicoms who will run the service, and then connecting the supplied router to the premises existing broadband connection. There are three plans for businesses wanting to offer the service, and those signing up in October 2012 will get the router free.
We should emphasis that these prices are for the business that wants to offer the Free Skype WiFi and not what people using the service will pay. The benefit to the business is appearing in the Skype WiFi app as a location offering free WiFi. Offering a free service that allows people to price check against online stores seems counter intuitive, but the Wicoms press release suggests the service will help retailers compete better.
The WiFi service will be tunneled service, so while it will use bandwidth from any stores connection, other data on that connection will be invisible to the WiFi users. There is no information on whether stores can specify how much of their connection to allow the Skype WiFi service to use.
Competing services like The Cloud and Openzone often install dedicated connections for hotspots, so it will be interesting to see what the feedback on user experience is like, certainly the concept appears to be more like Fon than a premium experience. For stores worried about people accessing inappropriate material, the service includes automatic filtering of content.