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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
Boost to wireless broadband
Businessmen using wi-fi
Hotel lobbies could become popular venues for the wireless web
BT is speeding up plans for thousands more places around the UK where you can go online via a wireless broadband connection.

To further that aim, the telecoms giant is offering wireless starter kits, dubbed hotspots in a box, which will allow companies to set up their own wi-fi networks.

It follows the success of self-install home broadband access, which was a major contributor to kick-starting a fast net boom.

People will need a fixed broadband line from BT, but for 400 can buy the equipment necessary to provide wireless broadband as well.

But unlike the self-install fixed broadband, people will still need a BT engineer to set up the hotspot.

Battle for the airwaves

It has been confirmed that wi-fi is at least five times faster and 10 times cheaper than 3G
Pierre Danon, BT Retail

The telecoms firm envisages such services being offered in all kinds of public spaces including hotels, restaurants, golf clubs, airports and stations.

It already has partnerships with firms such as Hilton Hotels and the owners of the Costa chain of coffee shops.

The telecoms firm is keen to avoid the criticism about its slowness to provide fixed broadband services and promises to have 4,000 hotspots across the UK by the summer of 2004, a full year earlier than it has previously said.

The decision is partly a result of the popularity of such hotspots which, according to BT, have seen a 20% surge in usage in the last two months.

Mobile firms on the brink of rolling out 3G services may worry as BT puts wi-fi head to head with third generation services.

"It has been confirmed that wi-fi is at least five times faster and 10 times cheaper than 3G," said Pierre Danon, head of BT Retail.

And he believes that the technology already has the edge with e-mail as people would rather send messages via wi-fi than 3G.

"You don't do e-mail while driving or walking. 3G is about data on the move but this is about data on the stop," he said.

European boom

Most business models are not proven yet and some location owners might even consider offering the wireless service for free to attract customers
Evelien Wiggers, IDC analyst

Despite this, Mr Danon does not rule out the possibility of so-called roaming agreements with 3G firms in the future, which would offer people the chance to swap between wi-fi and 3G networks.

According to research firm IDC, wireless hotspots are set to expand rapidly across Europe.

It predicts there will be around 32,500 hotspots in place by 2007.

Whether the technology can offer profits for petrol stations, airports, cafes and other open spaces remains to be seen but it could be good news for consumers.

"Most business models are not proven yet and some location owners might even consider offering the wireless service for free to attract customers," said IDC analyst Evelien Wiggers.

Wi-fi has to date remained largely the preserve of business people on the move.

But BT believes it can be a useful addition to the home and anyone paying out 249 for a wireless modem will get six months of access to public hotspots thrown in for free.




SEE ALSO:
Wireless net offered with a pint
07 Mar 03  |  Technology
Net cafes take on wi-fi rivals
27 Feb 03  |  Technology
Wireless net marches forward
20 Feb 03  |  Technology
Wireless broadband spreads its wings
30 Jan 03  |  Technology
Green light for wireless hotspots
21 Jan 03  |  Technology


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