Archive for July, 2009

WiFi Is On The Move

July 27th, 2009

In today’s society, the amount of time we spend offline is often only limited by our choice of mobile device and our physical location. There are fewer and fewer places where Internet access is not available making our ability to be online virtually always.

Recently we have seen an increase in WiFi hotspots that travel, literally. Airplanes, trains and buses, are allowing us to be connected even in transit and although smartphone users are able to use the 3G network to connect to the internet, doing so while traveling is not always reliable, cost effective, or fast.

Airlines are increasing the number or airplanes with in-flight WiFi.  After a few airlines tested the service with success, many have decided to add this feature to the list of amenities.  Delta has completed upgrades on 171 airplanes of their over 300 fleet. This paid service has become popular for the business traveler who wants to keep on top of email, Facebook and Twitter, while moving between cities.

Buses with WiFi are also becoming more common. Neon, a subsidiary of Greyhound, offers WiFi enabled bus trips between Toronto, Buffalo and New York. These buses also have electrical outlets, so you can take advantage of the Internet the whole trip.  The City of Moncton, New Brunswick offers WiFi on their entire public transit bus fleet. Their partnership with Codiac Transit has made this service the first available in Canada.

In Europe trains are very common mode of transportation, so it is no surprise that WiFi on trains is more widely available there then it is in North America. Canada’s Via Rail offers this paid service but many users have commented on the poor quality and lack of reliability.

And if traveling in large groups is not your preference you can equip your car with WiFi. Autonet is an in car device that turns the 3G network into a WiFi hotspot. This device is currently available through Amazon.com and has a monthly subscription fee of $29 US

The bottomline is this…no matter where you are in the air, at sea (cruise ships are into this too), on a train, bus or even in your own car, it seems that WiFi is becoming a mainstream tool for Internet connectivity.

The Age of Smartphone WiFi

July 13th, 2009

Starbucks is one of the first places people think of at the mention of the word WiFi. The classic combination of WiFi and coffee however, is no longer the only place to get wirelessly connected since WiFi hotspots are evolving rapidly. The driving force in WiFi is the trend in mobile device technology to include WiFi chipsets.

Last week Sprint Nextel announced that a new version of the Research In Motion BlackBerry Tour 9630 will be released next year to support WiFi, as Sprint expects consumers to keep craving mobile devices capable of accessing the Internet.  As major U.S. wireless carriers continue to roll out new smartphones, the lack of WiFi in many new smartphones has left both users and carriers frustrated.

“It is now a requirement for all our PDA equipment suppliers to include Wi-Fi,” Jeff Clemow, Sprint director of business product marketing, noted in an interview with Fierce Wireless.

A recent ABI Research reports suggests that 141 million WiFi enabled smartphones will be shipped in 2009.

Many Smartphone users connect to WiFi to download new emails instead of using the bandwidth from their data plans, the gen X and Y’s are using WiFi to update their Twitter and Facebook status.

Will the future of hotspots evolve or is it constricted to cafes, restaurants and hotels?  Providing WiFi adds value for customers of these traditional WiFi hotspot venues, choosing the restaurant for a business meeting or a hotel to stay in can be partially decided by the availability of WiFi Internet service. A Reuters poll found that “47 percent of travelers make sure a hotel caters to their technology needs before they book it.”

And the shift to WiFi-enabled smartphones is changing the way other venues consider WiFi as well.  Sports complexes, like Ivor Wynne stadium and shopping malls are expanding coverage to the entire building instead of just the food courts. The portability of devices with WiFi connectivity is increasing the demand for hotspots.

It seems people want to stay connected wherever they go.  So should they have to pay every time they enter a new hotspot? I personally think not – especially in North America.  Hotels have already ready begun to hide the fee in room charges and many airports in Canada and US now have free WiFi.

Consumers are demanding free WiFi in Canada and I for one look forward to seeing the carriers and other wireless ISPs respond to this need.

Welcome to “In the Air Tonight”

July 6th, 2009

Welcome to “In the Air Tonight” – an online destination for all things WiFi.  I am Asif Khan, a Toronto-based technology entrepreneur and connoisseur of all that amounts from the intersection of business, advertising and technology.

My latest venture is the launch of the Canadian arm of a global WiFi company called Vex.  At Vex Canada we envision a nation where WiFi is Free and Everywhere.

There is a shift coming.  That is the shift from laptop only WiFi locations, to the WiFi enabled smartphone.  Every new device on the market, from the iPhone, to the Palm Pre all have built in WiFi, but finding a free connection in Canada is not always easy.  WiFi should truly be everywhere, from the grocery store, to the hockey rink, to the gas station.

We’re hoping that over the next year we can truly create a blogspace where you can come to learn more about WiFi.  Where you can engage in discussion about WiFi in Canada and abroad, and where we together can help shape the future of WiFi in Canada.

One final thought: Our national anthem contains the words “True North, Strong and Free.”   Perhaps we could consider a new take on WiFi in Canada as follows: Canada (True North), (Strong) WiFi connections, (Free) for all!