Football clubs to get Wi-Fi 'by January'

Toshiba is planning to outfit Football League clubs across Britain with wireless LAN access over the next few months

Toshiba and systems integrator Wireless Workplace are planning to install wireless LAN access in football venues around the country, the companies announced on Wednesday.

As reported by ZDNet UK last week, the companies are close to a deal with the Football League, which administers 72 British football clubs. Under the deal, clubs would get Wi-Fi hot spots that would be accessible from anywhere in the club, allowing spectators to browse the Web, workers to connect to the office network from their executive boxes, and photographers and journalists to file material more conveniently.

Reading FC and Nottingham Forest FC have already been set up as test sites, with others to follow in the coming months, according to Toshiba. The company expects to complete installation in all League clubs by January of next year.

Wi-Fi, which creates 300-foot-radius areas where laptops can connect wirelessly to the Internet, has experienced a boom in recent months as Internet service providers, airports, train companies, restaurants and coffee shops have rushed to outfit locations with hot spots (See ZDNet UK's IT Priorities special report on mobile wireless). Toshiba estimates that 10,000 hot spots will be deployed across Europe by the end of this year.

"Forward-thinking venues are increasingly looking at how Wi-Fi can help their own staff as well as their visitors," said Andrew Doe, chief executive officer for Wireless Workplace, in a statement.

Despite the investment, however, industry analysts are sceptical that a working business model exists for selling Wi-Fi access.

Toshiba has been involved in some of the highest profile hot-spot deals, including a McDonald's plan to offer Wi-Fi in several major US cities. The IT giant manufactures Wi-Fi networking equipment as well as laptop computers with built-in wireless connectivity. The company was FIFA's IT sponsor for 2002's World Cup and will fulfil the same role for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

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