Telefonica launches global Wi-Fi service with in-flight coverage

Universal Wi-Fi service offers coverage in 110 countries using more than 1.3 million hotspots

For enterprises that don't want employees to roam using cellular networks, Telefonica has launched Universal Wi-Fi, which offers coverage in 110 countries.

Wi-Fi is becoming an increasingly important access technology to operators, either to offload their cellular networks or, as in this case, to offer subscribers data access when traveling. Universal Wi-Fi is specifically aimed at multinational enterprises.

The service uses more than 1.3 million hotspots at locations such as airports and hotel chains, including Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton and Sheraton. To get that many hotspots,  Telefonica is collaborating with iPass and Swisscom, for example.

It has also partnered with Gogo to offer in-flight coverage. Gogo has put Wi-Fi on 6,000 planes from Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Virgin America.

Telefonica didn't immediately reply to questions about what the service will cost. Users will pay a fixed cost for access using up to five devices, according the operator.

Competitor Boingo Wireless charges $59 per month for up to 2,000 minutes of worldwide Wi-Fi access per month on up to four different laptops and mobile devices. It also works with Gogo's in-flight service.

From 2013 to 2017, operators are expected to spend $8.5 billion on carrier Wi-Fi equipment, led by mobile operators using the network technology for data offload, Infonetics Research said in a recent report.

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