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How BT hotspots work and where to find them

whimsical illustration of a A woman working on her laptop in a café next to a Wi-Fi logo

Did you know that BT and EE offer dedicated Wi-Fi hotspots for its customers?

There’s also on-demand access if you aren’t an EE or BT broadband customer.

Other providers such as O2 and Sky have Wi-Fi hotspot services too.

In this guide, we’re going to explore how BT / EE Wi-Fi hotspots work. We’ll also be exploring the alternatives and looking into whether Wi-Fi hotspots are secure.

Using BT Wi-Fi Hotspots (EE Wi-Fi): the key points

  • BT and EE broadband customers have access to 5 million Wi-Fi Hotspots across the UK
  • If you aren’t a BT customer, it’s possible to purchase access to these Wi-Fi hotspots for an hour, 1 day, 5 days or 30 days
  • EE Wi-Fi Hotspots come with unlimited access. You can download as much as you want (subject to a fair usage policy)

What is a Wi-Fi hotspot?

Wi-Fi hotspots are locations where wireless network access is provided for public use. You might have to pay for access, or it might be included as part of a broadband deal.

‘Hotspot’ just means an area where wireless access is available.

How do you find BT Wi-Fi hotspots, and how do you connect to them?

BT and EE offer the largest Wi-Fi network in the UK and offers over 5 million Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the UK and selected areas abroad. The BT Wi-Fi hotspot service now goes by the name of ‘EE Wi-Fi’.

You can also pay to access an EE Wi-Fi hotspot independently without being a BT or EE customer.

How to find EE / BT hotspots

The quickest way to find your nearest public Wi-Fi hotspot on the EE broadband network is to head to EE’s hotspot finder. You can zoom and drag on the Wi-Fi map or manually add a search for a specific area or use the postcode for quick search.

The BT Wi-Fi app has been discontinued, so we recommend bookmarking this map for reference when travelling around.

How do you connect to an EE Wi-Fi hotspot?

If you’re a BT Broadband, EE Broadband or BT Business Broadband customer, you’ll get free Wi-Fi access as part of your broadband package.

To use a Wi-Fi hotspot, you’ll need a wireless-capable device. This could be a smartphone, tablet or laptop.

To get Wi-Fi internet access, enable Wi-Fi on your device and let it scan for available networks. You’ll then see a list of available Wi-Fi hotspot networks.

Once you join an EE Wi-Fi network, a browser window will appear with a ‘log in now’ button. Choose from four options, depending on which broadband service you’re signed up to:

  • EE Broadband account: for new EE broadband customers
  • EE Wi-Fi Voucher Account: for existing EE Wi-Fi voucher customers
  • BT Broadband account: for existing BT broadband customers
  • BT Business broadband accounts: for existing BT business broadband customers

Get Wi-Fi Hotspot access with these top BT deals:

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Temporary Wi-Fi: how to get Wi-Fi for one day

Not a BT or EE customer? That’s not a problem! It’s possible to buy hotspot access using an EE Wi-Fi voucher.

Access an EE Wi-Fi hotspot internet connection will cost:

  • 1 hour: £4.99
  • 1 day: £7.99
  • 5 days: £19.99
  • 30 days: £39.99

You’ll need to pay by credit/debit card or Apple Pay.

What are the alternatives to EE / BT Wi-Fi hotspots?

If you’re not a BT or EE customer, or you’re considering leaving BT or EE but are concerned about losing your Wi-Fi hotspot privileges.

Public Wi-Fi networks are very common in places such as cafés, pubs or libraries. Some cities, like Glasgow, London and York even offer citywide Wi-Fi connection. This is a good option if you would rather not use up your mobile data.

Genie tip: When logging into a free Wi-Fi hotspot, remember to uncheck any marketing boxes if you want to avoid emails from the venue, network provider, or other partners.

O2 Wi-Fi Hotspots

O2 Wi-Fi operates thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK. It’s commonly found in pubs, banks, supermarkets and other venues.

If you’re an O2 customer, you have unlimited access for free, plus the option to connect to additional ‘Wi-Fi Extra’ networks which your device can automatically connect to when the signal is better than your mobile data.

Find your nearest O2 Wi-Fi hotspot using this Wi-Fi finder.

Sky Wi-Fi Hotspots / The Cloud

Sky Wi-Fi is a national hotspot service using The Cloud network, which is owned by Sky.

If you’re a Sky broadband customer, you can enjoy unlimited access. If you’re not a Sky customer, you’ll have either time-limited access, data-limited access or you’ll need to pay.

Dynamic deal panel

Finding other public Wi-Fi hotspots

There are third-party apps and sites, such as Wi-Fi Map that can scan and catalogue Wi-Fi hotspots from across providers. Each includes a list of available free networks you can connect to from your device.

Are public Wi-Fi hotspots safe?

Public Wi-Fi hotspots including EE Wi-Fi Hotspots are unsecured connections. But this doesn’t mean you can’t stay safe when connected to them, you’ll just need to be vigilant.

Anyone with the right skills can ‘sniff’ Wi-Fi traffic. This means using a computer to suck all the wireless data in an area. This data can then be stored and analysed for passwords, logins and credit card numbers.

Fake hotspots are also a risk. These are designed to look and feel just like a real public Wi-Fi hotspot, but can be used to collect data.

EE Wi-Fi hotspots encrypt your account details at login.

There are a few easy ways to you can protect yourself when using a public Wi-Fi hotspot:

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Keep your data secure by scrambling your internet traffic.

Using a VPN is easy. You can sign up for a VPN service and install an app on your device. If you always use the VPN when you connect to a hotspot, you’ll be protected. Most leading VPN providers offer apps for most operating systems and device types.

Our introduction to VPNs can help get you started.

Keep your firewall and anti-virus software up to date

Scan your device regularly for viruses and malware.

More tips to keep yourself safe when using a public Wi-Fi Hotspot include:

  • Checking the Wi-Fi hotspot name matches the name given by the network operator
  • Avoid using websites that don’t use HTTPS encryption
  • Don’t visit websites you’re not sure about
  • Don’t click links in emails if you don’t know the sender
  • Don’t buy anything from web stores you don’t recognise
  • Use strong and unique passwords
  • Always use two-way authentication (2FA) when it’s available

Frequently asked questions about Wi-Fi Hotspots

  • Does Virgin Media offer Wi-Fi Hotspots?

    Virgin Media no longer operates its own public Wi-Fi hotpots as of November 2023.

  • How do I log out of an EE Wi-Fi Hotspot?

    Once you’ve finished your session, click on the ‘log out from EE Wi-Fi button’ link to disconnect. This is especially important if you’re paying for time-restricted access.

  • Do EE Wi-Fi Hotspots have a download limit?

    No, downloads are unlimited apart from a fair use policy. General day-to-day use including downloading content for streaming will be fine.

Meet the author:

Online Editor

Broadband Genie's Editor, Emma Davenport, has been contributing to the site since 2007. She has 20 years of experience writing articles, guides and tutorials on consumer technology for magazines and online.

Specialist subject: Broadband advice for vulnerable people

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