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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 10:03 GMT
Exeter named 'top wireless town'
People in a pub
Surf the net or sip a pint?
A pub in Exeter is probably the place to go if you want to be sure of getting high speed wireless net access.

Chip giant Intel has mapped the UK's wireless net access points and found that Exeter has the most per person.

Surprisingly London comes well down the list of places where wireless, or wi-fi, net access can be found because they are shared among so many people.

Most of UK's 3,000 hotspots are in pubs, and analysts estimate there will be over 70,000 across Europe by 2008.

Wireless nation

The Intel study mapped the number of wi-fi hotspots against the number of people in Britain's towns and cities to create a league table showing where wi-fi access was easiest.

Wireless net access has proved hugely popular in home and businesses and many firms have been setting up public hotspots so people can enjoy the same ease of access when they are out and about.

Intel's league table shows Exeter has the most hotspots per person, making it the unofficial capital of high-speed net through the airwaves.

Bangor in Wales is a close second, while Newcastle took third place.

"We are thrilled to have been named Britain's wi-fi Capital," said Richard Bell, a spokesman for Exeter City Council. "It's a real bonus for the people of Exeter, for business and for tourism."

Although London has the largest number of hotspots in total, because of its population size it only made it to number 33 in the league table.

Part of the reason that wi-fi is proving popular in the shires is because of the dearth of fixed-line broadband in many places. To share high speed access many communities have banded together to set up and use wi-fi networks.

lager and laptops

But most wi-fi hotpots in urban areas are targeted at business people on the move, who want to access company networks and large amounts of data quickly.

That means many hotspots can be found in hotels, airports, cafes, bars and motorway service stations. Many of the rest of the Britain's 3,000 access points are in pubs, a location that other countries are not focussing on.

1) Exeter
2) Bangor
3) Newcastle
4) Loughborough
5) Oxford
6) Exmouth
7) Banbury
8) Cardiff
9) Portsmouth
10) Southampton

The concentration on pubs is largely because wi-fi hotspot firm The Cloud has partnered with various technology and entertainment companies to put access points in many pub games machines.

Paolo Pescatore, a senior research analyst at IDC said that this could be to do with the British love of pubs as a place to congregate after work.

"This just makes me wonder how wi-fi in pubs is going to be received by consumers," said Mr Pescatore.

"Clearly business people are going to have laptops and PDAs, and they will want to access the net occasionally in the pub," he said. "But your will your average consumer be going into the pub with laptops and PDAs?"

He predicts people might start using wi-fi in pubs to play games, look up cinema times, book tickets and access other services at high-speed.

But until more mobile phones are kitted out with wi-fi technology in the next year to 18 months, that is unlikely to happen.

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