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BT has boosted the appeal of its business broadband packages with the launch of a new service that offers customers free Wi-Fi access, following its war of words with rival internet service provider (ISP) Opal.

Last week the telecommunications giant became embroiled in a spat with TalkTalk subsidiary Opal. The dispute came about after Opal publically claimed that its new business deal was 58 per cent cheaper than that of BT.

BT responded by stating that Opal’s statement was unfair since it had failed to compare like for like. On the same day that the dispute surfaced, meanwhile, BT confirmed that it is cutting the cost of its business broadband deals, in a sign that competition for business broadband customers is heating up.

Now it has emerged that BT has added a sweetener to its business-focussed packages in the form of free wireless access. This is available to all customers who use the BT Business Total Broadband Hub and is accessible both to new and existing customers.

Those wishing to take advantage of the wireless broadband offer simply need to update their service, which should take only a matter of minutes. The ISP said that 20,000 members of its customer base have been notified of the new service, and added that it expects that a further 200,000 will run the update to allow them to use it for free Wi-Fi during the first quarter of the year.

BT’s offer is aimed principally at small to medium-sized enterprises such as cafes, hotels and dentists, many of which are struggling in the face of the credit crunch. These businesses can choose to charge for Wi-Fi access by selling BT Openzone vouchers, thus providing them with a new revenue stream. Alternatively, they can offer Wi-Fi access to their customers for free.

Bill Murphy, BT Business managing director, said: "Offering Wi-Fi adds value and is good customer service. It can also allow businesses to make incremental revenue. The service is helping our customers stay online and keep productive during these times."

To ensure that the owner of the premises does not suffer an impaired service as a result of the number of people connected to the hub at any one time, BT prioritises traffic via a separate internet channel.

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