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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Conference WiFi update

Regular readers may recall that I'm running a campaign to force conferences & conference venues to provide free (or at least sensibly-priced) WiFi & good wireless coverage to delegates. I will be refusing to speak at WiFi-less events in future, and will be extending that to poor indoor cellular coverage. It's generally the fault of the venue owner, which may charge £200-1000 per day for WiFi to the conference room, often with clunky sign-up mechanisms to boot. The alternative is usually delegates buying stupidly-priced hotel WiFi on an individual basis.

As a result of a previous post, I've been trying out a portable WiFi router backhauled with a Vodafone 3G card. The idea is that this is a proper "guerilla access point" that completely bypasses the hotel/venue's rip-off inhouse hotspot. My experience has been fairly positive - obviously, it's subject to 3G coverage being available, but it seems usable for a few concurrent web/email users - and probably many more if it was a new HSDPA card running at 1.8Mbit/s. Technically it's been a bit of a mix - easy to set up in "unsecured" mode, but for some reason the setup software threw a glitch which stopped me setting up a security key. Also, the international roaming on the temporary press SIM didn't seem to work when I tried to use it abroad. It's quite light & compact to carry around, though.

Bottom line: I reckon there's a great niche business for operators renting these out to conference or event organisers. An informal sample I made (OK, two) suggested they'd perhaps pay £50-100 a day, which works pretty well vs a normal monthly datacard flatrate 3G tariff. (Although something would need to be done to circumvent roaming fees, maybe supplying them with a range of national SIMs, as there won't be any inbound calls).

Stick that in your pipe & smoke it, Hilton Hotel or Olympia Conference Centre WiFi Pricing Drones.

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