Businesspeople seek quality Wi-Fi connections


8 Dec 2006

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Premises that provide public Wi-Fi hotspots – such as cafes, bars and hotels – are under pressure to ensure ‘business quality’ broadband access as irate business customers who find their logging in attempts fail are starting to complain, siliconrepublic.com has learned.

Alex French, a director with Irish Wi-Fi hotspot provider Bitbuzz, told siliconrepublic.com that research commissioned by his company has revealed that businesspeople are less concerned about the quantity of hotspots available but rather the quality.

“Business people would prefer to pay for a quality connection in a coffee shop rather than be left in a situation with 50-50 availability after they’ve paid for a coffee and have powered up their notebook,” French explained.

French said that the quantity of Wi-Fi hotspots in Ireland is not an issue, referring to Ofcom’s report last week that revealed the country has the largest number of Wi-Fi hotspots per head of population (18.3 per 100,000 people) followed by the UK (at 17.6).

Bitbuzz, which was established in 2003, has seen a 100pc increase in usage on its network of hotspots over the past year and counts over 40,000 registered users.

French said it is vital that premises offering public Wi-Fi services ensure that there are no deficiencies in quality. “It is unacceptable at home or in the office if your broadband connection falls down, so the same rule should apply to businesspeople who want to use a public hotspot, especially if they’re paying for it.

“Wi-Fi is being adopted by indigenous businesspeople on the move as well as people in media such as photographers and journalists. Wi-Fi needs to be a part of the country’s infrastructure countrywide.”

French added that the quality of Wi-Fi services available to the public, if insufficient in places, could act as a deterrent to visiting international businesspeople. “If Ireland gets a reputation for poor quality Wi-Fi it creates a bad impression and turns people away.

“We’re finding that travellers from other countries are used to high-quality Wi-Fi connections. If you’re visiting Dublin or Cork and you pay a hotel €10 or €15 for Wi-Fi you expect to be able to get reliable, good-quality service.

“People are beginning to complain to the hotel or coffee shop if the Wi-Fi connection isn’t up to scratch. Therefore it is important that Wi-Fi providers provide a high-quality product,” French said.

In November French commissioned an independent survey by wireless and security research group Espion Research of the three key providers of Wi-Fi networks in Ireland: Bitbuzz, Eircom and BT Openzone. The research he says indicates that Bitbuzz is succeeding in maintaining sufficient quality connections for businesspeople logging in.

Espion used a sample of 10 hotspots from each service provider, randomly chosen and examined using a pre-determined set of criteria: availability of service; download speeds; staff knowledge; and quality and costs of technical support. The survey was conducted in seven sites in Dublin, and one each in Waterford, Cork and Limerick, for each provider.

A breakdown of the survey (available at www.espion.ie/wifi) shows that in the Wi-Fi hotspots serviced by Bitbuzz, all 10 sites provided high quality and operational services. In comparison, BT Openzone’s service was operational in only 70pc of the advertised hotspots tested and high-quality access was available in only three of the 10 hotspots. Of the 10 Eircom hotspots visited, only 50pc were operational, Espion claims.

By John Kennedy

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