Free Wi-Fi goes beyond the Fringe

Intel, 3Com and Broadreach have teamed up to bring 802.11b to Edinburgh's alternative arts festival

People visiting the Edinburgh Fringe festival this year to sample the latest theatrical, musical and comedy performances are being offered an added bonus -- free wireless Internet access.

Semiconductor maker Intel has set up a stand at Princes Street Gardens in the centre of Edinburgh where it is letting festival-goers sample laptops built around its Centrino chip, as part of its drive to promote wireless networking.

A Wi-Fi hot spot has been installed at this "Unwired" mobile experience zone, based on 3Com hardware and branded a "Broadreach ReadytoSurf" site. It will provide free wireless connectivity to anyone in the vicinity with an 802.11b-compatible device, until 24 August.

"We see a strong future for public Internet access, and Wi-Fi is one of the technologies that will play a key role as we roll out our services to locations across the country," said Magnus McEwen-King, chief executive of Broadreach, in a statement.

A recent survey found that only 29 percent of people actually know what a Wi-Fi hot spot is, so this initiative could help to boost awareness among the hundreds of thousands of festival visitors.

According to Intel, there will be at least 2,000 public Wi-Fi hot spots in the UK by the end of 2003. A survey by Gartner published on Wednesday placed the figure even higher, at 4,100.