The free Internet access market is hotting up this week as Arsenal football club announces free access to fans, while BT's Line One service looks set to scrap its monthly subscription charge.
The Arsenal service is being provided by VIP Ltd and ICL who teamed up last month to develop a free service with Toys R Us.
VIP is a joint venture between Cisco, Cable & Wireless, Softbank and ICL, and also provides services for Carphone Warehouse, Burnley Football Club and the Open University, the latter of which is also free.
The success of Dixons Freeserve and predications by industry analysts that no money can be made from merely providing access, have spurred on companies to look towards advertising to make money.
The free Internet Service Providers (ISPs) also rely heavily on revenues received from helpdesk calls, both Toys R Us and Arsenal charge #1 a minute and Freeserve has just reduced its charge to 50 pence.
Such ISPs sell a complete package to enable companies to offer free ?own branded? Internet access and email services to their customers without having to make heavy investments in technology or staff.
Traditional ISP Uunet, which resells its service to corporates, is planning its own inroads into the growing free access market. Next week it will launching a package specially tailored for companies wanting to offer customers free Internet access.
The future of free Internet services however. is under threat as later this month telecomms regulator Oftel is expected to make it more difficult to offer Internet access without monthly subscriptions.
Line One, the online information venture between BT, News International and United News & Media, is expected to announce this week that it will scrap its monthly subscription charge.
The move to a free service comes as a surprise as the company has always maintained that customers will choose to pay for premium content over that supplied on free services.
The Line One service is expected take advantage of the extensive distribution model already in place by supplying CD-ROMs with one of the parent companies? newspapers, which include 'The Times', 'The Express', 'The Sun', and 'The News of the World'.
The company would not confirm or deny the whether it will abandon the subscription charge but did a say it will make announcement in the next two days.
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