WiFi hotspots: "Known" networks can block internet

Posted on by Mike Evans

Author: Michael Evans

The iPhone has a useful safety feature that prevents expensive 3G data connections if there is a known wifi network available. For the most part, this works well, but it is now beginning to be a problem. It's a problem that has been highlighted by the UK's main hotspot network, BT Openzone, and the arrangement O2 have with BT and The Cloud for free wifi at "selected hotspots". The trouble is, once you've registered your phone, the connection becomes automatic whenever a hotspot is available. But not all BT or The Cloud spots are linked with the O2 scheme. Often, when the internet has disappeared, I have realised that the wireless is locked on to a hotspot that is not allowed--but the phone still thinks it is connected and doesn't revert to cellular 3G.


When this happens the only solution is to go to Settings and switch off wifi. Then, of course, you forget to switch it on again when it's needed. Recently, the annoyance has been exacerbated by the expansion of British Telecom's BT FON system whereby subscribers to BT's ADSL broadband can offer limited public wifi access. I find that my iPhone, because of the O2 BT Openzone limited subscription, locks on to these local networks. No wifi signal is received because I'm not authorised, but the phone doesn't know this and I suddenly realise nothing is happening. 

Frustratingly, one of my neighbours offers BT FON and I frequently find my phone connecting (fruitlessly) to this signal in certain parts of the house, presumably because it is stronger than my own network signal. I now question the wisdom of continuing to pay O2 £35 a month for an iPhone service that includes BT Openzone only in selected locations, mainly coffee shops such as Caffe Nero. 

For £20 I can now get exactly the same service from O2 but without BT and without visual voicemail, for which I have no use. I could then spend £10 a month on a full-service BT Open Zone subscription. Result: A saving of £5 a month and a much more extensive and usable network of wifi spots. 

Has anyone else had similar problems and have any solutions been thought out?

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