Wi-fi hotspots or not-spots – how good is wi-fi on the go?
It doesn’t strike me as particularly surprising that the latest survey shows that two thirds of wi-fi users experience signal problems, including slow speeds and connection drop outs. But what’s it like on-the-go?
I’ve sat many a time tapping my fingers waiting for a page to load on my wi-fi connection at home.
Of course, it’s hard to tell whether it’s the wi-fi connection playing up, someone else in the house eating up the bandwidth, or problems with the line itself.
Wi-fi on the move
Broadband Choices’ survey seems to focus mainly on wi-fi in the home, but what about wi-fi hotspots that you can access when you’re out and about? In a situation where any number of people are trying to access the same wi-fi connection at the same time, surely it’s a recipe for a snail-paced disaster?
Press releases from BT Wi-fi (formally known as BT Openzone) periodically drop into my inbox with the latest number of wi-fi hotspots it has on offer. It’s now over four million apparently.
And although The Cloud, part of BSkyB, doesn’t have the same size of network as BT, it also offers wi-fi access for people on the go in places like Eat and Wagamamas. It claims to connect almost a million devices to its wi-fi hotspots every month.
Wi-fi vs 3G
But are either of their wi-fi hotspot offerings any good? Vince Russell, managing director of The Cloud, says ‘wi-fi is going to be vital to share the burden of all this data with the 3G network’. And so he would as wi-fi is his business, but as I, and I’m sure many others, will know from personal experience – connecting via 3G on your mobile can be unbearably slow.
So using a wi-fi hotspot network is certainly tempting, but are their offerings really fast enough? I’ve heard more than once that people have turned off their access to BT’s Openzone wi-fi because it was slower than the mobile 3G connection they could get. And I recently heard from a Which? member who said that successfully logging on to BT’s wi-fi hotspots was ‘a very rare occurrence’ having tried in many locations using different devices.
If these wi-fi hotspots are free, maybe we have nothing to complain about. But if we’re expected to pay, we’re definitely within our rights to demand a good service. Perhaps providers should concentrate on investing in the quality of their wi-fi offerings, rather than the quantity of hotspots?
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