I wrote about the open wi-fi network in central London – back when I was just “hoping” that it would give us coverage while in London. Indeed it looks the network is around and that there are many wireless hotspots. I don’t know yet how pervasive the outdoor coverage is, but coverage at shops (coffee shops for example) seems pretty much available.
But the service that’s saving my life here is BT Mobile Broadband, which is available for £15/month (special promotion) on a “commercial” plan. (See photo of their [new] USB plug-in device above)
Advertised as providing “up to 7.2Mb (actually I would say 7.2mbps – or megabits per second) I was getting 2.5mbps on Sunday afternoon, and through the week have been getting upwards of 640kbps almost all of the time, which isn’t as good, but is roughly equivalent to a DSL line in the US. It’s also not quite as good as wi-fi, but if you’re at a public-access wi-fi spot, you’re unlikely to get anything better than the 640kpbs speed anyway.
On Monday at Reboot Britain [see Howard Rheingold’s article on the conference, where he spoke] we were inside a steel and brick building, in an inner room, and the local wi-fi was so overloaded it couldn’t maintain a connection for longer than a few minutes [this is common for large conferences of geeks], and I stayed on the BT Mobile service the entire day and it was rock solid, though at the lower data rate. That’s why I say it “saved by life.”
If you’re in Britain, need data on the road, and can’t tether your computer through a phone, this service seems like it would be indispensable. [I don’t know whether non-British national can purchase it short term…but if so, it would be great.]
[Disclosure: BT corporate is providing the device for me and the other Traveling Geeks, along with service, for the week I’m in London. I have no obligation to write about it or promote it.]