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Surf and Sip is the latest Wi-Fi hotspot operator at the London airport: The official launch is January, but the service is up and running in departure lounges in all four terminals. The airport is unique in having three operators now: BT OpenZone, T-Mobile UK, and Surf and Sip. I’m only aware of one other airport with a second terminal-wide coverage operator—Dallas, Texas.
Surf and Sip is moderately well known in the States where’s been operating since 2000 in coffeeshops and restaurants starting in the San Francisco (Calif.) Bay Area. It expanded overseas two years ago and has extensive locations in Eastern Europe and the UK.
The hotspot operator is competing on price, according to this Nancy Gohring story over at InfoWorld: £5 per day versus T-Mobile’s £10 and BT OpenZone’s £13. All other things being equal price sensitivity and price shopping could provide the company with much more usage.
The story notes that the company’s founder spent two years negotiating with the airport authority to obtain approval after a skunkworks hotspot was removed.
Orange launches late, expensive Wi-Fi service: It’s £6 per hour with their UK launch. It combines Wi-Fi, GPRS, and 3G service. Wi-Fi in the UK will be provided through partnerships with WeRoam, BT, and BT OpenZone. Each 60-minute chunk of Wi-Fi, triggered by a text message, can be used throughout the network over 24 hours, which may lightly justify its high cost.
The city of Londonderry will have a metropolitan Wi-Fi next by spring: The Belfast paper suggests the city will be among the first in Europe to have full coverage. A Chesire-firm, Evolution Systems, will use Tropos Networks gear. Costs to end users aren’t noted, but the project is underwritten by a European economic development fund that’s trying to rejuvenate the economy of Northern Ireland.
Former WNN staffer Nancy Gohring writes about the European group Fon, which aims to spread grassroots Wi-Fi roaming: The Fon system requires the use of a Linksys gateway with new firmware they provide; they’ll offer the firmware for other gateways in the future. Fon has an eco-system of Bills, who charge for hotspot access; Linuses, who offer it for free; and Aliens, who pay to use hotspots. Linuses get free access on the Fon network, no matter what kind of hotspot, because they’re offering free service.
The idea is quite similar to the original business models of both Sputnik and SOHOWireless, and the failed Joltage (second item on linked page). All three firms tried to build grassroots or community-organized hotspot networks that would rapidly expand. They suffered from a lack of hardware and a lack of momentum. In an era when any dense neighborhood has plenty of accidentally public networks and purposely free ones, Fon may be already behind the time.