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EDITIONS
 Monday, 13 January, 2003, 06:40 GMT
Signs point to the wireless net
New York's Fifth Avenue
Wi-fi hot spots dotted around New York

It is soon going to be easier to find cafes and other places that offer wireless internet access.

A global programme to label these locations, called wi-fi hot spots, has been launched by the trade body which promotes wireless.

Wi-fi has taken centre stage at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with many companies promoting a range of wireless products.

Experts say the technology, which allows people to surf the web wirelessly and send information to any gadget without using cables, will become a household term this year.

Wireless everywhere

Analysts predict a massive explosion in wireless, with sales of wi-fi cards forecast to jump from 6.5 million in 2001 to 31.2 million in 2006.

Starbucks coffee shop
Starbucks: Offering web with coffee
Many of the new laptops and handheld computers due in the shops this year will have the technology built in.

At CES in Las Vegas, wireless technology seemed to be in every gadget, even in a DVD player.

"Consumers are enamoured with the idea of being untethered," said Jeff Joseph of the Consumer Electronics Association which organises CES.

"It is incredible to see how it is being integrated into everything."

Confusing situation

Across the US, thousands of hotels, airports, cafes and bookstores have set up wi-fi hot spots, where people can tap into high-speed net connections without cables.

More are in the offing. In December, IBM, AT&T and Intel joined forces to announce they would set up hot spots across the US in hotels, universities and other buildings.

"Wi-fi continues to grow in popularity around the world," said Dennis Eaton, chairman of the Wi-fi Alliance.

"There are dozens of public access service brands around the world, making it difficult for people to identify where wi-fi public service is available."

Chalk marks

Last year, a low-tech approach to finding wireless internet connections became a worldwide craze.

Called "warchalking", it involved people putting chalk marks on the pavement or wall near to a wireless access point, with basic information about how to connect.

The wi-fi zone scheme should make it much easier to find out where people can go online wirelessly.

A logo will signal that a wi-fi service is available and a directory on the web will serve as a yellow pages of hot spots.

The scheme by the Wi-fi Alliance, which is backed by leading electronics companies, is due to launch in March.

Consumer Electronics Show 2003, Las Vegas

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See also:

18 Mar 02 | dot life
04 Oct 01 | Science/Nature
08 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
06 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
23 Jul 02 | Technology
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