Britain's biggest Wi-Fi hot spot rides the waves

The Hampshire coastline will soon sport the largest area of commercial Wi-Fi coverage in Britain, spanning a three-mile stretch of water

Britain's largest area of Wi-Fi coverage is being created in Hampshire, but wireless enthusiasts will need a boat in order to get the best use out of it.

Square Mile International, a Wi-Fi service provider, is currently building a wireless "hot zone" on the coast of South England. It will cover a stretch of the River Hamble -- which reaches the sea between Southhampton and Portsmouth.

The hot zone will be made up of five or six individual Wi-Fi hot spots when its construction is finished later this year. It will use directional antennas to focus the footprint on the River Hamble, covering an area 2.7 miles long and 0.6 miles across at the widest point. This will provide wireless connectivity over an area of more than one square mile.

As well as spanning the full width of the River Hamble, some houses and businesses located in and around Hamble will also be able to get Wi-Fi access from Square Mile International.

The first three hot spots -- at Warsash Marine at Hamble Point, the Square Rigger pub at Port Hamble and the Hamble School of Yachting at Mercury Marina -- will go live at the end of January. A subscription to Square Mile International costs £25 per month or £250 per year, although more limited sign-up options are also available.

"Sailors are using the Internet to gather information about the weather, tides and charts as well as making contact with their office whilst aboard their boats," said Dominic Killinger, managing director of Square Mile International. "A subscription to the Square Mile Internet service can now give sailors access at over 30 marinas across the UK, and in 2004, the first sites in Europe and beyond will go live. There are possibilities for other hot zones in certain parts of the world, including along inland waterways and other busy coastal locations."

The Hamble hot zone is thought to be the largest area of commercial Wi-Fi coverage in Britain, an unofficial title that was previously held by Broadreach, which has unwired a chunk of London's West End.