There are millions of wireless hotspots across the UK, which allow you to get online with your laptop or tablet in coffee shops, hotels, train stations and other public places.
Wireless hotspots are a convenient way to get online. There are hotspots that are free and ones you pay to use all over the country, and if you're a mobile broadband customer you might even have Wi-Fi minutes included as part of your deal, enabling you to get online without using up your precious mobile broadband allowance.
Hotspots are great because you get a fast, reliable internet connection while you're out and about, yet you're not restricted by the low download limits offered by mobile broadband. All you need to get online is a Wi-Fi-enabled device such as a laptop, a tablet computer like an iPad or even a handheld video game console like a PSP or PS Vita.
How to find a hotspot
There are loads of hotspots around. Built-up, busy areas like central London usually have loads of hotspots, but if you live in a more remote area you might have to go to a local library or pub to get access. Read the broadbandchoices.co.uk guide on where to find free Wi-Fi hotspots for more infromation.
The main hotspot providers all provide coverage checkers on their websites, so if you're looking to connect in a specific area, it's worth checking these before you go.
The following are companies that provide Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK:
BT Wi-Fi wireless hotspots
BT (www.BT.com) Wi-Fi, formerly BT Openzone, is a wireless service that offers thousands of hotspots across the UK and many more in international destinations. It offers subscriptions for regular users and UK and international minutes for occasional customers.
BT Wi-Fi and broadband customers can also access the BT Fon network, a constantly growing network provided by BT broadband customers willing to share a section of their private home internet connection.
You can check BT Wi-Fi hotspot coverage using the "Find a hotspot" tool on the BT Wi-Fi website.
O2 wireless hotspots
O2 has deals to supply Wi-Fi in a number of popular bar and restaurant chains, including McDonalds, Costa, Café Rouge, Harvester, Toby Carvery, Browns. O'Neills and All Bar One.
To see O2 hotspots in your area, use the provider's "Find a hotspot" tool.
Sky wireless hotspots
The majority of Sky WiFi hotspots are free for non-Sky broadband customers to use, but free use is likely to be limited to an hour at the most, while others may charge from the outset. You will need to sign up to Sky Wi-Fi the first time you use the service.
Those with a Nintendo 3DS handheld video game console get free access to Sky WiFi hotspots as video games giant Nintendo has a deal with Sky.
In addition to this, Sky has deals to provide Sky WiFi to a number of well-known bars, cafes and restaurant chains, such as Caffè Nero, J D Wetherspoon, Greggs, Pizza Express and Wagamama.
Wi-Fi hotspot risks
A word of warning must be given about using public access
internet such as Wi-Fi hotspots.
It is wise to avoid performing activities that involve entering credit or debit card details or logging on to your bank account when connected to one of these networks, as there is a significant risk of sensitive information being hacked through these networks if they are not properly secured.
Also, don't forget people can see what you're doing over your shoulder when you're in a public place.
However, don't let this put you off - millions of people regularly use Wi-Fi hotspots, which are an easy and convenient alternative to mobile broadband and internet cafés.