BT has promised to create 4,000 local hotspots for wireless broadband by 2004, rather than its original target of 2005 - although analysts have questioned the move.
To help it meet its goal, BT has agreed a joint venture with Toshiba to offer what it calls 'hotspot in a box'.
Marketed as a low-cost off-the-shelf product, it will be targeted at pubs, shops and small hotels, as well as airports and railway stations.
A roaming agreement will link up BT's Openzone network with Toshiba's global hotspots.
Other firms may also join. "A new group of resellers would be able to install the boxes, which will cost £400 including installation," said Gary Evans, business development manager at Toshiba.
But Richard Dineen, a WiFi specialist at analyst Ovum, said BT was in danger of getting carried away with its enthusiasm for installing local hotspots.
"Providers should be thinking about quality rather than quantity. Although the technology is cheap to install and there is understandable eagerness as the applications are already there, let's take this one stage at a time," he said.
Dineen questioned whether there is demand for internet access in shops and cafes, other than among business users and geeks.
"Also, there are technical and corporate drawbacks. Many people will not know how to configure their laptop or PDA and, even if they do, corporate policy may not allow them to do this," he said.
BT has previously agreed deals with Wi-Fi network The Cloud, a consortium of Intel, Ericsson and Inspired Broadcast Networks, which plans to put hotspots in 1,300 pubs and clubs by the end of the year.
Along with partner Cisco, the telco is also trying to persuade corporates to develop 'guest hotspots' for visiting customers, suppliers and partners.
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