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Net Waves: Public Wi-Fi: Is it Good Enough?

I've tested wireless LAN equipment in metro areas, and it's not easy to
provide widespread mobile access. Large structures, such as high-rise
buildings, often get in the way. In addition, Wi-Fi standards were not
really intended for large areas. WiMax, which is slowly becoming
available, is likely a better fit for covering metropolitan areas.

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System integrators have had problems covering midsize venues, such as
hotels and airports, with Wi-Fi service. I travel a lot and take
advantage of public Wi-Fi access whenever possible. For example,
recently I was staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia and
moderating roundtable discussions for one of my clients. My room was
top-notch and the staff service was excellent, but the Wi-Fi coverage
wasn't too good from my room. Later that same week, I was in Houston
staying at a Hyatt, and again Wi-Fi coverage in my room was poor. The
commonality between these two hotels is that they're large and charge
$10 per day for Wi-Fi access.

A few weeks ago, I completed a nine-day, 2,500-mile road trip by car
throughout much of the South Eastern United States while working for one
of my clients. This project had a tighter budget, so I stayed
exclusively at Holiday Inn Express hotels. They're relatively small and
fairly nice for the money, and they provide free public Wi-Fi service
with excellent coverage, at least in the eight different hotels where I
stayed. I guess the old saying that "you get what you pay for" doesn't
apply to public Wi-Fi!

While on these trips, I (for fun) generally measure the Wi-Fi coverage
throughout as much of the hotel as possible. I'm finding that, usually,
the signal strength in hotel lobbies is excellent and the sleeping rooms
(at least the ones I've stayed in) have good or poor signal strength. In
other areas such as hallways and elevators, Wi-Fi coverage is generally
non-existent. Synchronizing e-mail and browsing the Web may be good if
you're lucky, but be ready for dropped calls when using voice-over-Wi-Fi
phones when roaming throughout the hotel.

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