Wifi the way it should be

Two diametrically opposed wifi experiences today.

The first occured at St James Park where I was meeting up with a friend for lunch. I got there 40 minutes early, spotted a Starbucks and thought that I’d go and get myself hooked up and check my email. The wifi in all Starbucks cafes is brought to you through the nose by T-Mobile – at £5 for an hour it’s not exactly cheap.

I paid up for an hour anyway, which was at least a pretty painless process, and proceeded to check my email and drop a line to my mate to say I’d arrived early. He essentially came right over to meet me, and thus I ended up spending £5 for 15 minutes of wifi and £1.40 for a bottle of water. The wifi access terminates 60 minutes after you register, not after 60 minutes of use, so there’s not even any chance of pitching up to another branch and finishing off my hour.

After lunch I hoofed it over to Holborn where Martin Roell had told me there was an odd little cafe on Museum Street which offers free wifi. The Camera Cafe, half way up on the right as you walk towards The British Museum, not only has free wifi, it also has a downstairs area with comfy seats which is pretty much empty right now. Not only is the wifi free, but the people are friendly, the bottled water cheaper and the music marginally better than Starbucks’.

Patently the free model is preferable for users, but the wifi at Starbucks probably doesn’t net them a huge amount of money and it seems that there’s not a strong business case for them charging what they do. Personally, I’d be happy to pay if costs were reasonable and fair – not too expensive and paid by the minute, not the hour.

I’m only just getting into this whole wifi thing, having only just got myself a laptop that’s both light enough carry around without breaking my back and wifi’d up, but I do resent £5 for one hour or any part thereof.

2 thoughts on “Wifi the way it should be

  1. I have a feeling that little camera cafe is going to be verrry verrry popular. I don’t pretend to understand the economics of providing this service, but I really resent the idea of paying for internet access on top of a service that I’m already paying for (*$s nero etc).

    The other no-hoper is railway-stations. I thought twice about getting my laptop out on Waterloo station, but was astounded to find there were THREE pay-thru-nose networks available. However, there was certainly no way I was going to sit peering in the dim light at my credit card while I typed the number into an unsecured log-in screen and then beaming it I know not where. The shame of it is that there’s as much chance that they’ll stop doing it altogether if it doesn’t make a buck as there is that they will make it free. I live in hope.

  2. Thought I would share my experiences of wifi in UK πŸ™‚

    I was walking around London looking for a wifi place… Thought of Starbucks, but found out that I had to be signed in with T-mobile, that it wasn’t cheap and noone could answer my questions… I walked away to end up in ReadyToSurf (http://www.readytosurf.com) access point in Virgin megastore. £1 for 25 minutes was good enough, but I had to fight a bit with logging procedure. Anyway, I was able to get help…

    Then it was Martin’s story about Camera Cafe and discovering it. I was immediately hooked up. Not because wifi was free, but because of the athmosphere, friendly staff, taking care not only about my drinks, but also helping me to plug power adaptor properly… and, of course, because of the selection of fresh juices (easy way to make me happy πŸ™‚ Sure I was back for a few times and I will come again once I’m in London. Even if juice prices will double πŸ™‚

    And I had a similar experience in Brighton, in Grand Central pub next to the station: free wifi, good lunch and returning back for a coffee… There is a selection of hotspots there (http://wireless.looseconnection.com/brighton), so I guess there is some kind of business model behind it…

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