Birmingham International Airport (BIA) announced on Monday that it has become the first airport in the UK to set up a commercial Wi-Fi hot spot.
The wireless network is situated in the airport's second terminal and will be run by UK Explorer, which already operates public Internet access terminals at the airport and across Britain. BIA is confident that the hot spot will be popular with business passengers who need to check their email and access the Internet while travelling.
"UK Explorer has been a commercial partner of ours for some time now, managing nine existing Internet kiosks within the terminal buildings. With the experience of their first class service, we've embarked on this venture to give our customers more choice and greater flexibility," said Ray Savage, head of commercial market development at BIA, in a statement.
"Wi-Fi will predominantly appeal to our business travellers, which is why we have installed our first transmitter in this largely business passenger terminal. With the growing demand for wireless connections, we're confident that it will be warmly welcomed by passengers at Birmingham Airport," Savage added.
To access the service, users will need an 802.11b-compatible laptop or PDA. Customers can buy 30 minutes, one hour, one day, one week or one month's worth of access time, and BIA will also offer corporate accounts. Pricing details are not yet available.
Several other companies are also building commercial Wi-Fi hot spots in the UK. BT's Openzone service launched last month with 20 hotspots, and is aiming to have created 400 by summer 2003.
Another company, Megabeam, is planning to operate Wi-Fi hot spots at 15 major UK railways stations -- Waterloo, Kings Cross, Euston, Paddington, Victoria, London Bridge, Liverpool Street, Fenchurch Street, Charing Cross, Gatwick, Birmingham New Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Leeds Central, Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley.
Megabeam already operates Wi-Fi hot spots at 20 locations throughout Europe, including Rome airport and Milan airport.
And US coffee chain Starbucks has just begun trialling Wi-Fi in Europe, including at two outlets in London.