Mobile communications

Importantly for frequent travellers, wifi is increasingly also becoming relevant to telephone calls, and wifi phones, which route calls over the internet rather than via the traditional phone network, are booming.
Several manufacturers such as Belkin now provide wifi phones which, instead of connecting to a mobile phone network, simply log onto a wireless hotspot and send calls over the internet. Dozens of phones, including those running the hugely popular Skype software, are already available.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, hotels are the most common place to find hotspots worldwide, followed by restaurants and cafés. This is gradually changing, however. The City of London recently saw the unveiling of what is believed to be Europe’s biggest wifi hotspot, covering the entire Square Mile. Run by The Cloud, it will allow the area’s 350,000 workers to gain internet coverage via their laptop or mobile phone wherever they are.
"I’ve used the service myself in a taxi driving through the city, and I’ve managed to keep talking [using VOIP]," said Niall Murphy of The Cloud, which built the system in conjunction with the City of London. "This is the biggest hotspot of its kind in Europe as far as we know, and is unique as users keep their [internet] signal wherever they are."
There are currently around 2,000  conventional internet hotspots around London, covering almost all of the capital’s major hotels, and hundreds of coffee shops. However, they require users to log on every time they are used. Users of the City system will simply have to log on to The Cloud once. "We’ve been meeting a lot of the big financial institutions in the area, and we’ve even found the network is  available in their boardrooms, so we think there will be a corporate use for it as well," says Murphy.
Politicians have also backed the plan. Derek Wyatt, head of the UK’s All Party Internet Group, says: "Such a  large-scale project is an exciting prospect for communications in the UK, allowing people to send emails, make cheap phone calls, surf the Internet, do business and even play games online, wherever they are."
Unsurprisingly, hotspots have also sprung up in some odd places. The most "wholesome" hotspot location is St John’s Church in Cardiff, where the Rev Keith Kimber installed wifi through BT Openzone to encourage laptop users to enter the church to work without noisy distractions.
Globally, the US has the highest number of hotspots (37,000), with the UK coming second (12,668) and South Korea third (9,415). "It’s got to the point where people often choose where to stay when travelling or to meet based on whether they can get reliable wifi access. Branded venues such as Marriott hotels and Starbucks cafés are proving popular with iPass customers because they know they can get connected," says Doug Loewe of iPass.

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