City-wide Wi-Fi?

It looks like the prospect of ubiquitous ‘net access in Birmingham is coming ever closer, as BT recently announced plans to massively increase the number of wireless access points around several UK cities (including dear ol’ Brum)! There are already several other initiatives aiming to provide such coverage, such as The Cloud and T-Mobile Hotspots, which cater more towards just the coffee shop crowd. Anyone know of any more in the Birmingham / West Midlands area?

All this is a great idea, but the prohibiting factor always seems to be cost. I don’t know what the rates on this new BT setup are going to be, but the cost for T-Mobile hotspots is pretty steep! I couldn’t find hourly rates for The Cloud, but I did find an announcement that they’ll soon be offering flat-rate WiFi for £11.99 a month. Then again, I suppose cost isn’t usually a problem for the target users of these plans, which I would presume to the kind of businessmen/women that require constant email / news / etc. for their jobs, hence their employer probably foots the bill.

Of course, once the price does come down to a point where the general public is interested then I bet bandwidth contention will quickly become a bottleneck, as Joe Bloggs brings his laptop in to town and starts downloading all his favourite torrents while having lunch with his friends (especially since most home ISPs seem to be limiting download quotas lower and lower). There’s probably also a minefield of issues relating to security on wireless networks. I’m no expert, but from what i’ve read the implementations of wireless networking thus far have had some pretty big flaws. For the geeks among you that want to read a bit more about this, I found a paper written by some guys at the University of Maryland, entitled “Your 802.11 Wireless Network Has No Clothes!” (Warning: Link is a PDF document)

2 Comments so far

  1. Tony Morel (unregistered) on May 21st, 2006 @ 5:26 pm

    About time too.
    I’ve been in on several WiMax meetings held with Birmingham shop owners / BT and several other IT vendors.

    The scheme in Stratford upon Avon using IPAQs and WiFi is boosting sales for shops,(and technologically rather exciting for a geek) so there’s a market for it (and no doubt big money for someone who gets on the bandwaggon soon enough)

  2. GaZ (unregistered) on May 21st, 2006 @ 10:33 pm

    Really? Care to divulge any more info regarding these meetings, Tony?

    Btw, do you have any links for info on the Stratfor iPaq/WiFi scheme?


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