UK Wi-Fi market is hotting up

It looks like being a Wi-Fi Christmas as the pace hots up in the commercial wireless LAN grab

Britain and Ireland will boast almost 90 commercial Wi-Fi hot spots by the end of 2002, if both BT and Megabeam achieve the rollout targets they have set themselves.

Megabeam, which is shaping up as the most serious rival to BT Openzone, released details last week of the 14 places where it plans to set up a Wi-Fi hot spot between now and the end of December.

Six of the locations are major passenger transport hubs -- Euston Station, Liverpool Street Station, Waterloo Station and Victoria Station in London, and London City Airport and Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

The remaining eight are sited at Moat House hotels at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Gatwick, Manchester, Cambridge Garden, Harlow/Stansted, Oakley Court and Shepperton.

Taking into account the company's existing sites -- at Paddington Station, the Reading Moathouse and the Hammersmith services -- this will give Megabeam 17 UK hot spots.

The choice of hotels and transport links illustrates that Megabeam is targeting its service -- which provides high-speed wireless Internet access using the 802.11b standard -- primarily at business people who need to be able to check and send email, and surf the Web, while away from their desk.

BT Openzone has taken a similar approach. It already has 36 operational hot spots, which are located at hotels, business parks, corporate headquarters and outlets of Costa Coffee following a deal announced late last month.

By the end of the year, BT Openzone hopes to have at least 70 hot spots in action, with a longer-term target of 400 by June of next year.

Three other companies are also involved in the UK Wi-Fi scene, albeit in a more modest way thus far. Wayport, which has built over 450 Wi-Fi hot spots in America, operates one site in Dublin and two in London, UK Explorer has one site at Birmingham Airport, and Starbucks is currently conducting trials at two London stores.

Click here to see a full list of the UK's Wi-Fi hot spots.

Discover the latest developments in Wi-Fi, 3G, GPRS and other cutting-edge wireless technologies at ZDNet UK's Wireelss News Section.

Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Go to the Telecoms forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom.