Finding Wi-Fi hot spots just got easier

The relaunch of ZDNet UK's Wi-Fi map, built in conjunction with Ordnance Survey, gives you street-level information about hot spots at hotels, coffee shops and stations up and down the land

Connecting to the Internet while away from the office got easier this week as ZDNet UK's map of Wi-Fi hot spots relaunched with a major upgrade. The new Flash-based version of the map gives street-level information about which hotels, railway stations, cafes and kiosks offer Wi-Fi for people looking for wireless Internet connections.

ZDNet UK’s Wi-Fi hot spot map was built in conjunction with Ordnance Survey, and is based on the agency's MasterMap of Great Britain -- a terabyte spatial database of every feature across the country.

From the Ramada Jarvis hotel in Inverness to the BT Kiosk on Plymouth's Union Street, the ZDNet UK Wi-Fi hot spot map covers hundreds of hot spots provided by the likes of BT Openzone, Swisscom Eurospot, T-Mobile, and ReadyToSurf. It was designed to help mobile professionals find convenient access to high-speed wireless networks, and will be frequently updated as the service providers roll out more hot spots over the coming months.

The UK's Wi-Fi market is growing sharply. Operators are agreeing partnerships with retail outlets every week, and many analysts predict that Wi-Fi will enjoy a bright future in Britain.

A recent Gartner report forecast that there would be 1.5 million people using UK public wireless networks in 2005 -- a threefold increase on today. With big players such as Intel, BT and Virgin getting involved, Wi-Fi isn't short of powerful friends.

But there are also several problems. Pricing models vary widely, and confusingly, between operators, and the fees are often too high to attract many consumers.

The absence of roaming deals can also deter some customers from taking out a subscription with a single operator, as they'll have to stump up extra cash if they want to use a hot spot on another network.

Click here to view the Wi-Fi map.