Britons trade being lonesome for being "Phonesome"

The social stigma associated with dining alone appears to be fading fast, thanks to a rise in the availability of free wifi in cafes, bars and restaurants, a new report from O2 Wifi reveals today.

More than half (53%) of those polled by O2 Wifi for its “Wifi Britain” report say they are now happy to eat and drink alone so long as they have access to the internet to check their emails, connect with friends on Facebook or simply follow the latest news story

Six in ten people (58%) say they are more comfortable spending time in public on their own now that round the clock internet access means they can log in to social media in so many public spaces.

Moreover internet connectivity is determining where Britons are choosing to grab a coffee or buy a pint when out on their own. Whether a pub has wifi is now ranked more important than the atmosphere of the place, it emerges.

Check out our infographic on how Britons are using free wifi

One in seven (14%) people insist wifi access is crucial for them to consider entering a café, bar or restaurant while one in ten have changed venue because of a lack of internet access. One in five (20%) say they feel frustrated – even angry – towards restaurants, pubs or cafes if they don’t offer free wifi.

The report was commissioned by O2 Wifi who have now seen over six million people sign up for the service in the two years since launch, making them the UK’s fastest growing wifi network*.

Gavin Franks, MD of O2 Wifi comments:

“Britons tell us that being able to access the Internet in their local cafes or bars is a liberating experience. Gone are the days when you have to twiddle your thumbs or bury your head in a book if you found yourself dining alone. Fast, reliable and free wifi in the places we hang out enables us to spend more time in the venue doing the things we enjoy – be that updating, posting, blogging, booking, buying or even just reading.”

O2 Wifi statistics reveal that Britons plug into public wifi an average of nine times each week.

Staving off boredom was deemed a crucial reason to hop online in public – with a quarter (24%) connecting without having any specific reason or purpose to going online.

While one in ten panicking interviewees (10%) have undertaken a quick search via their mobile device to swot up on a company, minutes before entering an interview.
And one in ten nervous first daters have done a quick Google of their date on the way to meeting them to check the basics.

A squabbling third of people said internet access was a crucial feature in settling arguments in the pub or out with friends, nearly half rely on access for fact checking and one fifth have cheated in a quiz.

Gavin Franks continues:

“Restaurants and pubs are fast cottoning on to the fact people are much happier to dine alone if they can busy themselves online – whether that’s checking their emails or gaming. As a result we’ve seen a surge of interest from high street brands wanting to make online access as easy as possible for their customers. It’s a great way for them to engage with their customers through digital experiences while shopping.”

Users are becoming more focused on the quality of the overall wifi experience. Only one in five people thought having to sign-in with a username and password to get online was acceptable. Unlike other wifi providers, O2 Wifi auto-connects all registered users. In addition, all O2 customers who are signed up to O2 Wifi will be automatically registered for free wifi on the London Underground in the summer, taking away the hassle of signing up above ground or remembering a password.

O2 Wifi is free for everyone, regardless of network or broadband provider and once registered, customers are automatically connected each time they enter a coverage area. The state of the art hotspot network is widely available across thousands of venues nationwide including McDonald’s, Debenhams, Costa Coffee, House of Fraser and Fullers and Mitchell & Butlers pubs.

For more information, go to www.o2wifi.co.uk

– Ends

O2 conducted research amongst a representative base of 2,000 UK adults in February 2013 with OnePoll under strict Market Research Society Guidelines.

* Fastest growing wifi network as measured by growth in registered users