is a new product from Skype that helps you connect to Skype-friendly public Wifi hotspots, and also handles payment. It’s currently in beta, and only works on Windows 2000 and XP right now – no Mac, Linux or PocketPC versions yet.
But what’s most interesting is its prices. It only costs $3 US for 2 hours, or $8 for unlimited access for a whole month. If that applies in the UK, then that translates to pretty cheap Wifi – we’re used to paying up to £6 (over $10) per hour here. Furthermore, the Skype Zones service is available through The Cloud, who have 6000 hotspots in the UK, Germany and Sweden, including a number of bars and clubs. One reasonably accurate way of discovering whether an establishment is wifi-enabled is looking for an Itbox games machine – they’re usually connected up to The Cloud. The Cloud is also upgrading some BT payphones to offer Wifi.
Skype Zones’ billing service is actually provided by Boingo, though Skype themselves have developed the software which is installed in addition to any existing installation of Skype. If this really is as good as it sounds, then I may have to sign up.For too long Wifi has been prohibitively expensive in the UK; if this starts a trend of lower prices then I’m sure the technology will take off more here and be as ubiquitous as it is in parts of the US.