by Claire West

BT has announced the acquisition of marina wi-fi network operator Square Mile Marina to deliver high-speed wireless internet access to 39 coastal and inland marinas in the UK and Jersey.

When founder Dominic Killinger walked out of the Dragon’s Den he walked out with £150,000 and two new business partners, Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis.

This was one of the only episodes that I can remember where the Dragon’s were queuing up back the entrepreneur who finally chose Jones and Paphitis only to buy them out in 2007.

BT plans to switch the existing wi-fi service to its BT Openzone service by the start of the sailing season in March.

The BT Openzone service will provide an estimated 3,000 permanent berth holders and visiting yachtsmen, using 10,000 marina berths, with easy-to-use wi-fi connectivity. As part of the agreement, Openzone has been installed in the past month at five new marinas – Walton-on-Thames and Pyrford marinas in Surrey, Brundall Bay in Norfolk, the Thames and Kennett marina in Reading, and Upton in Worcestershire.

When the marinas are switched to the service, a wide range of BT Openzone voucher and subscription payment options will be made available to subscribers – offering them greater flexibility and cost control. The popular yachting website will continue to be available from the BT Openzone marina landing page.

BT Openzone general manager Chris Bruce said: “BT has a strong affiliation with the sailing community through our support of Dame Ellen McArthur and the BT Global Challenge. As an extension of this commitment, BT is very excited about the opportunity to offer wi-fi services to the sailing community and we will be looking to expand this network in 2008.”

Dominic said: “Square Mile Marina has developed into a strong and successful wi-fi business. BT, with its Openzone resources and wi-fi operational experience, is the right choice to take the network forward.”

The BT Openzone network will allow marina users to stay connected to e-mail, the web and their company network, alongside gaming and voice over internet protocol applications from a growing number of wi-fi enabled devices.

In addition to the Square Mile Marina estate, customers can access wi-fi at more than 2,000 BT Openzone hotspots in premium locations – including hotels, airports, coffee shops and an increasing number of leisure and holiday sites.

Existing Square Mile customers can use their current accounts until the network is upgraded to BT Openzone and, at that stage, customers will be invited to transfer across to BT Openzone pricing plans.