Free wifi puts Birmingham among UK’s most connected cities

A new survey of UK wifi hotspots sees England’s first and second cities live up to their reputations as tech hubs – and offers advice to business travellers on free public wifi safely.

Person on laptop in Bullring Centre Birmingham next to mobile phone charging unit

Jacek Wojnarowski/

Analysing data from the UK's communications regulator Ofcom, mobile phone insurance provider Insurance2go has compiled a top ten of UK cities for free public wifi.In a boon to commuters, freelancers, business travellers and mobile workers, the study reports the UK has around 14,000 free wifi areas. 

London offers most free wifi

Close to two-thirds are in London, which has by far the highest number in the UK, and mainly located in cafes and public spaces like shopping centres, museums and train stations.Birmingham takes second place in the ranking, affirming the city’s growing reputation for being on the UK’s technological frontier.Among Birmingham’s 620 hotspots are shoe-box sized access points located across the city centre. The initiative between Birmingham City Council and Virgin Media Business offers unlimited connectivity for visitors.

Top 10 UK cities for free public wifi hotspots – a digital divide?

  1. London (9,269)
  2. Birmingham (620)
  3. Leeds (597)
  4. Manchester (534)
  5. Glasgow (475)
  6. Edinburgh (471)
  7. Liverpool (362)
  8. Sheffield (359)
  9. Bristol (327)
  10. Cardiff (291)
The analysis also identifies cities that aren’t as developed in their free wifi offering. All are in Scotland and include Stirling (71), Dundee (115 ) and Aberdeen (126).Explaining these figures, Insurance2go notes that when compared against population size and number of visitors, these numbers were in line with other UK locations.
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Managing internet safety on the move

Internet security is a consideration for business travellers and a risk companies should mitigate for.Matt Powell, an editor at price comparison site, Broadband Genie, warns that data can be intercepted when we are using our mobiles and laptops on the move and offers advice on how to manage the risks.“It is fairly simple for either the network owner or other users to monitor traffic, and any data sent unencrypted would be visible, which could include financial information or passwords," said Mr Powell.“Ensure that websites you're using are encrypted: look for HTTPS in the URL or a green padlock icon in your browser. When accessing a site without HTTPS keep in mind that all your activity could be monitored and behave accordingly. “You should never enter a password or any other sensitive data into an unencrypted site when using public wifi. But, remember that even when protected by HTTPS, it is still possible to see what site you're visiting.

How to foil hackers when using free wifi hotspots

"It's also crucial to always make sure you're connected to a genuine wifi network, as hackers may try to catch unsuspecting surfers with fake hotspots set up to capture data,” continued Mr Powell.“Confirm that the network name and password are exactly the same as provided by the network operator.”Gary Beeston, sales & marketing director at Insurance2go, added: “Free wifi is usually within arm’s reach no matter where you are in the country. “There are still many providers that request customers to login, but it’s important for Brits to remember not to be so trusting when using public WiFi, and make sure they’re fully protecting themselves whenever they are connected.”
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Read more about business travel and Birmingham's status as a tech leader in the Spring issue of our magazine
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