Posts Tagged ‘wifi’
You know how Boris Johnson wanted a mobile phone network installed on the London underground so everyone could tweet and text their way around the 2012 Olympic Games?
It’s not happening.
The TfL, 02, Vodafone, Everything Everywhere and 3 have all agreed to shrug and give up on the project thanks to it all seeming like it was a bit of a ballache to sort out.
The Guardian reports that Huawei, a Chinese network equipment supplier, was prepared to donate £50m of equipment to wire up the network and the networks were going to pay for 3G networks to be installed. However, they’re not going to bother now.
Of course, other places – like Paris – already have mobile signals on their underground, leaving Britain looking Victorian, again.
Transport for London said: “The mayor and TfL made it clear that, given the financial pressures on TfL’s budgets, any solution would have to have been funded through mobile operators with no cost to fare or taxpayers. The parties were not able to agree a viable proposal, and the project is therefore not being progressed at this time.”
So a massive waste of time for everyone who sat down to try and work out how this was going to get rolled out then.
A spokesperson for Johnson said: “We are grateful to the companies who explored the possibility of getting full mobile coverage on the tube, although disappointed the genuine problems encountered could not be overcome on this occasion. It remains a long-term goal.”
There’s been a lot of news and chat about the Underground in That London getting hooked up to a WiFi connection, which is obviously a good idea, right?
The worst thing about travelling by tube is the communication vacuum, leaving passengers unable to tell their boss that they could be late, or indeed, tweet “Having heart attack PLS tell wife I LUV U”.
However, surprisingly, the majority of Londoners polled don’t want WiFi on the Underground.
55 per cent of those surveyed weren’t in favour of getting WiFi on the tube, which is all set to go ahead in time for the 2012 Olympics. It appears that the main concerns focus on privacy and theft. The respondents didn’t like the idea of using a WiFi which could see their personal data floating around in an unsecured networks.
The biggest worry was that increased use of smartphones, laptops and the like, would only result in a rise in the frequency of theft Jesus, these Londoners are a paranoid bunch aren’t they?
A smaller percentage of people think that this WiFi programme would make transport magically more stressful in some way. However, it seems that the TFL don’t care and are dismissing these concerns because it could be a money spinner for them.
O2 have launched a new network of “premium, managed” WiFi hotspots, kicking off at a 450 sites. That’s exciting isn’t it? Well, don’t get too excited because most of these sites are based on the company’s own premises.
O2 are going to extend the network eventually, claiming that they’ll have a network double the size of the ones offered by BT Openzone and The Cloud. Combined.
They reckon that users will be able to log into the network “seamlessly”, although, every time you use one of these networks in a new place, you’ll be slapped across the eyeballs by a ‘splash screen’, which means O2 will flood your mind with offers and the like.
It won’t be offering widespread ‘mesh’ coverage, rather, focussing on hotspots which O2 think will complement rather than replace 3G mobile networks. The company are looking at shops and restaurants for their strategically placed locations across the UK.
Tim Sefton, New Business Development Director at O2, said that “Only 20 per cent of people who have access to free public WiFi on O2 tariffs use it, despite the majority of devices being WiFi enabled.” Customers thus far have been put-off using the service thanks to needlessly complicated sign-in procedures and the like.
On several occasions in the past, Bitterwallet has pissed and moaned about the reliability of free WiFi on East Coast mainline trains. The service was marketed as a key benefit over flying between the North of the UK and London, but far too often it failed to deliver.
As of the beginning of the month, East Coast is charging for WiFi on board their trains for standard class passengers; £4.95 for an hour, or £9.95 for access across a 24 hour period. There’s 15 minutes of free WiFi available, and after that the charges must be paid. If you sell your children in order to buy a first class ticket, the service remains free.
What are these charges paying for? According to the East Coast website, they’re paying for the upgraded system which was introduced at the same time the new charges were introduced; “…you will experience the benefits of a new and improved Wi-Fi system on board all East Coast trains… the latest HSPA and 3G technology… using multiple mobile data connections and broadband satellite we offer a continuous service along the entire East Coast route.”
So how’s that working out for you?
We tested the new service on Saturday, on board a lunchtime train from London to the North East. We paid for one hour of WiFi access, and during that time continually conducted download and upload tests on the connection through a variety of websites, including Broadband Speedchecker, Speedtest.net and PC Pitstop. Testing the three on a home broadband connection suggests some variance between the sets of results, but it’s clear that all three roughly agree with one another.
From the 22 tests we performed, the average download speed across the hour was 565Kbps, and the average upload speed was 187Kbps. In November 2008, we conducted a similar test when the franchise was still operated by National Express – ostensibly the same service but with one major difference – the WiFi was free. In November 2008, the top download speed we observed was 600Kbps, and the fastest upload speed was 185Kbps. Looking at the individual performances from last weekend, only six of the 22 download tests surpassed 600Kbps.
We’ll admit our methodology wasn’t entirely scientific, but it’s difficult to perceive much of a difference between the previously free service and WiFi 2.0 – for one fifteen minute period during the hour, we couldn’t get a single page of any website to load and for the final twenty minutes it was frustratingly slow. This was despite the fact that the train was less than half full.
When WiFi was free, you could take it or leave it – it was a (very) mediocre perk of your ticket. Now passengers have to pay for it, East Coast have to be accountable when they fail to provide the service as promised. So what can you do about it?
There’s a new WiFi User Guide available online and in carriages, but it makes no reference to any refund procedure. East Coast Customer Services can’t help you either – they’ll only deal with complaints about the new charges, not the quality of the service. The people to talk to about refunds are the WiFi support team, that can be called on on 08451 25 44 55 or emailed at email@example.com.
The refund procedure goes like this: contact the team with the date, time and route of your train, your receipt details and an outline of the issues you experienced. Their team will investigate the claim and contact you in due course; the refund policy states that if you experienced a disruption to the service that lasted longer than five minutes, you are eligible to a full refund.
Sounds good, but there may still be room for ambiguity; for example, how slow does a connection speed have to be before it can be considered a disruption? At least there’s a policy in place – if you have cause to use it over the coming weeks, get in touch and let us know how you got on.
The research involved something called an “ethical hacker”. Does that mean he wears hemp trousers and cuddles modems? Anyway, this ethical hacker is called Jason Hart and he visited 6 UK cities and tested private Wi-Fi networks that broadcast signals to public places.
Using easily available equipment (though not necessarily easy to use) it is reported that Hart found 40,000 Wi-Fi networks that ran a high risk of being hijacked by hackers.
The study also showed that nearly a quarter of private wireless networks had no password protection, which of course, makes them easily accessible to people who might want to do something a bit dubious with it.
Hart said in a statement: “When people think of hackers they tend to think of highly organised criminal gangs using sophisticated techniques to crack networks. However, as this experiment demonstrates, all a hacker requires is a laptop computer and widely available software to target their victims.”
Where did he get his number from though? Did he go to some cities, get a number, and then multiplied his results by the number of places in Britain or what? Anyway, the lesson we’ve learned here is that, if you haven’t protected your Wi-Fi connection with a password, do it. Or, if you want to buy some hemp trousers and hack someone else’s, it’s a piece of piss.
Good news! You’re a guru! Yes you are! In fact, anybody who can work the basic settings of a smartphone is a guru! Props!
But what does this mean, dear reader? What treasures await you, now you’ve reached this lofty plateau of enlightenment and omnipotence? Well, there’s quite a good chance O2 will give you a t-shirt with your name on. And a job! Yessum!
Take a look at O2′s new Guru TV channel on YouTube, and you won’t be too staggered to learn what passes for master intelligence in mobile phone circles. O2 are carpet-bombing their customers with emails about these new videos, in the desperate hope they’ll migrate to WiFi while at home and stop causing their 3G network to fall over. Fair enough. But guru? If you have to tell people you’re a guru, chances are you’re not one at all (this applies equally to social media gurus). And if this guy is a guru, the world is surely doomed:
Thanks to avid Bitterwallet reader Paul
When the East Coast mainline was operated by National Express, WiFi was introduced to their trains, much to the delight of passengers. What wasn’t so delightful was the cost – a fiver an hour was extortionate. Then National Express got wise, and realised in the face of increasing competition from budget airlines, WiFi was something of a dealbreaker for passengers when travelling between the North and South.
Fast forward several years to the present day, and National Express no longer holds the East Coast mainline franchise. East Coast, a government-backed company was brought in last year to manage operations, and up until now all has been well. Until this week at least, when East Coast seem to be doing everything possible to prove themselves a bunch a insufferable, inflexible twats. There’s the outrage over charging a passenger £155 for leaving a train one stop early, and now passengers have learnt that East Coast will begin charging standard class passengers for WiFi access from October.
Here’s the statement from their website, oozing with delicious spin:
Wireless internet that’s quicker, better quality, and more reliable – that’s what you asked for, and that’s what we’re pleased to deliver. From early October 2010, you can experience the benefits of a new and improved Wi-Fi system onboard all East Coast trains.
The updated system uses the latest HSPA and 3G technology so you will enjoy a more reliable Wi-Fi connection with faster upload and download speeds while you travel. Aerials and modems have also been updated, ensuring the system is compatible with future communication standards.
All Standard Class passengers will be entitled to 15 minutes free access to the improved Wi-Fi system. Thereafter, access will be charged at £4.95 for 60 minutes or £9.95 for 24 hours. First Class passengers can access the service free of charge.
It’s true, customers have been asking for quicker, better quality and more reliable WiFi for years, because the current service is so desperately, desperately shit – but we’ll eat two hats each if any customer demanded having their wallet burgled for the privilege. So from early October, all return journeys from York and northwards to London Kings Cross will require you spending an extra £20 if you want WiFi in standard class.
If you live in the North East or Yorkshire then there’s a very decent alternative – opt for Grand Central, which operate four trains daily between Sunderland and London. They’re a little slower (although direct from York to KX), but the benefits more than make up for it. The ticket pricing is fixed, for one thing; book off-peak tickets in advance or on the day and you’ll pay the same – between Sunderland and London return that’s £40 one-way (£39 one-way from York), compared to paying £104 on the day for a one-way ticket from Newcastle on East Coast. Plus there’s free tea and coffee for all passengers on Grand Central – and free WiFi. Aces.
Vodafone, who we went toe-to-toe with not too long ago, have launched their own MiFi device called the R201. A crap but ultimately loveable droid from Star Wars? Nope.
As the more savvy but no-less avid readers of Bitterwallet will know, MiFi is the term used for wireless mobile broadband modems. Instead of plugging a dongle into your laptop, a MiFi creates a localised Wi-Fi hotspot for multiple devices to connect to.
3 already have one out, but Vodafone are now weighing in with a media touch with the inclusion of Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) technology. The device will enable you to store music, videos and photos on an SD card of up to 32GB in size, which can then be accessed via the R201 on their other devices. Thanks to shitty DRM, this means that content will only work on DLNA-certified devices.
The R201 will be made available in ‘various countries’ this year and you can buy it in the UK, as of now, on a £25 monthly price plan, which includes 5GB of data.
“By adding DLNA compatibility to the device, it becomes much more than a connection to the internet, by enabling users to connect to their other WiFi enabled DLNA devices and wirelessly share and enjoy their digital content, no matter where they are,” says Vodafone’s director of mobile broadband Huw Medcraft.
A handy little gadget for those who don’t have the willpower to not get blind drunk whilst working away from home using a pub’s free WiFi. That said, have a look at what 3 can offer before signing up to Vodafone, especially as 3 offers tariffs with far more generous plans.
International flights may have been postponed for the time being (it’s certainly upset the Scottish jetsetters) but once you’re back up in the air, wheeling and dealing your way around the globe, this might come in useful. It’s a crowdsourced Google mash-up of airports around the world that offer free WiFI. Most international airports offer access through the likes of Boingo, but plenty offer it for free – perfect for the frugal traveller:
NB – you can add airports you know about or correct any mistakes by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Orange have finally released their tariffs for the iPhone, a week before the handset is released by the service provider. And despite promising us that anybody thinking they’d be identical to O2‘s prices “should think again”, nothing of the sort has transpired. In fact, when we first told you that the Carphone Warehouse was advising customers that Orange iphone tariffs were fixed to match O2, we were pretty much on the money. Not only that, Orange have introduced some very interesting restrictions on your data usage.
The only difference of note is that Orange has introduced a new tariff for under £30 on a 24 month contract, and has doubled the minutes and text allowance on the 18 month equivalent tariff, when compared to O2. Otherwise the differences are just a matter of pence:
What about data? Pay Monthly data usage is capped at 750Mb per month – in a world of unlimited usage, it’s quite bold of Orange to state a limit. Although they then makes themselves look like prize dicks by still stating usage is unlimited, and then stating the limit alongside:
On Pay As You Go, Orange have capped data usage per month to 250 Mb – that’s compared to O2′s unlimited-but-fair-use policy, which in our experience doesn’t seem to bottom out at 250Mb. Throw in some YouTube action and apps usage, and it’s pretty easy to bust that limit in a month.
The more eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed another curious clause – on both Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go, Orange are capping wi-fi allowance at 750 MB per month. Wi-fi? Presumably they’re referring to hotspots with which Orange partner, but stating such tightly defined data limits is a massive shift in service provider policy.
Orange partners with the likes of BTOpenzone in the UK; presumably it’s access through these wi-fi hotspots Orange are looking to restrict. The same hotspots can be accessed through the iPhone on O2… for free. Um.
Our verdict? There’s no doubt Orange seem to offer more thorough 3G coverage, but all the feedback from our readers suggests O2 will offer better customer service everytime. There’s also this question of data allowance, on both 3G and wi-fi; this may inevitiably be a road that all service providers are forced to walk as demands for data outstrip forecasts, but it’s bizarre that Orange have decided to draw the line in the sand with the iPhone.
A few months ago, we were happy to report on the launch of a company, Freerunner, whose aim is to supply WiFi to “underserved and digitally remote” areas of the UK with the installation of free-to-use access points in public and commercial venues. The revenue comes from the fact that the venue pays, at a cost that Freerunner says is significantly less than rivals.
Better news is that, a few months on, they haven’t gone tits up and are still going strong. They’ve just announced a giveaway of 50 completely and utterly free hotspots to lucky communities across the country. Freerunner say that winning community representatives can decide to put the hotspot anywhere they like – “be it the local library, youth centre or pub.” We say ‘pub please’ but if you disagree, get to their website and fire off your 150-word pitch for free WiFi.
If that’s not enough, they’re also working in conjunction with JustGiving.com, the online charity fundraiser and are planning to give 500 UK charity locations free, delicious WiFi. We like Freerunner. They’re good folks.
So Virgin Trains has begun rolling out wifi access on its west coast mainline service. That’s good news, and not before time since National Express (and GNER previously) have offered on-board internet access for the past four or five years on the east coast mainline.
Except Virgin are still well behind the times with their new service; while National Express made internet access free 18 months ago, Virgin will charge for access unless you happen to be a first class passenger or T-Mobile customer. This visionary move from the brand launching Virgin Galactic in the next 12 months. Watch out for the high-powered business man using VoIP and eating up all the bandwidth in the new Virgin Trains ad beginning on TV tonight, and be less than astonished by the lack of small print to point this detail out.
Still, their wifi policy may be stranded in the dark ages, but at least their posters have their finger on the pulse of social meeja, innit?
Maybe you go on holiday to get away from it all. Maybe you pretend to get away from it all, but secretly can’t stand the thought of living without email, Facebook and any number of social media websites that make you feel fulfilled and wanted.
Wherever you’re going, there are plenty of resources to help you find the precious flutter of wifi:
- myHotspots is a pretty exhaustive and up-to-date database of wifi hotspots in the UK.
- Pret A Manger, McDonalds, Wetherspoons, Varsity and the majority of Coffee Republic outlets all offer free wifi.
- There are oodles of IPhone apps available for locating wifi, which not only saves battery life but roaming data charges, especially when abroad – we’d recommend trying out WifiTrack or Total Hotspots.
- TravelPost has a definitive guide to US airport wireless connections and free airport wifi, listing 219 US airports, service providers and corresponding pricing, plus availability within the airport. They also have a guide to wifi at 80 major international airports.
- If you’re in the US, try the user-built directory at Hotspotr, which lets you choose wifi hotspots by type and reliability, as well as plotting locations against a Google map:
- We recently covered various ways of picking up wifi while travelling by bus or plane in the US, plus tips for wifi in hotels.
- To locate wifi elsewhere in the world, a couple of well-resourced sites with Google Map mash-ups are free-hotspot.com and JiWire.
Know of any more? Add them to the comments and share the wifi joy.
Hey you! Yes, you! Are you a corporate whore? Can you not get through the day without a cup of overpriced coffee and your over-priced, under-performing iPhone pushing nonsense into your brain? Then good news! The Register reports that beginning this week BT will be begin replacing T-Mobile as wifi providers for Starbucks in the UK and Ireland.
The deal will run for five years, with over 650 hotspots forming part of the BT Openzone network. Thanks to an existing wifi deal with O2, iPhone users will be able to get access at Starbucks, at faster speeds available than currently offered by 3G. Once the rollout has been completed, O2 dongle subscribers will also get bundled Openzone access.
A win for both BT customers and O2 network users then, and iPhone users will be able to put their Go Grande app to good use, too. It’s like all your Christmases come at once.
Here’s a handy video on how to build an extended range wifi antennae. Obviously this won’t work for your built-in laptop wifi but if you have one of those cards that plug in to your PC with the little antennae or a laptop card with external antennae this could do the trick. The bit at the end with colouring a drinking straw with black marker to give it a “professional” look is hopefully a joke but the rest of the video appears solid. The one caveat to doing this yourself is there is a bit of soldering needed.