Openzone lands airport Wi-Fi deal

At 80 departure lounges across the world, wireless-savvy travellers will soon be able to access the Internet while waiting for their flights

High-speed wireless connectivity will be available at 80 British Airways executive lounges at airports across the world, under a deal that BA has signed with BT Openzone.

The agreement increases Openzone's global reach. "We see airports and airport lounges as perfect locations for BT Openzone access points," said Steve Andrews, the managing director of BT Mobility.

"Flying, whether for business or pleasure, usually means spending some time waiting. Now customers have the opportunity to wirelessly log on to their company intranet to download the latest version of a presentation cost effectively at broadband speeds, or to catch up on their emails, or simply surf the Web, making them as efficient as when they're in the office," Andrews added.

Many UK airport lounges will get a Wi-Fi hot spot as part of this deal including Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Belfast -- as well as Heathrow and Gatwick, which both already contain an Openzone network. Other locations include airports in continental Europe, the US, Africa and India.

Some airports already have Wi-Fi hotspots. In April 2003, BAA, which is one of the world's largest owners of airports, switched on a BT Openzone Wi-Fi hot spot at Heathrow Terminal 1 in London.

But it's not all plain sailing.

With Wi-Fi networks becoming prevalent, experts are warning companies that they have to sort out their wireless policies and security as a matter of urgency.

Analyst Gartner predicted on Thursday that the number of hot spot users will rise to 30 million worldwide this year, up from 9.3 million users in 2003

Garter recommends that companies should put company Wi-Fi security in place quickly, advocating a firewall and secure VPN login for remote access as a key pillar of any strategy.

"Build a strategy for use of hot spots by employees, but beware of entering into subscription contracts with service providers that cannot supply roaming agreements to meet the enterprise's needs," said Ian Keene, research vice-president at Garner, who advises caution when selecting a service provider until the Wi-Fi market has reached maturity.

Silicon.com's Jo Best contributed to this report

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