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What's up with Wi-Fi?

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Just lately I have found myself getting really fussy about the quality and availability of Wi-Fi. I also realise that I actually base business choices on that perception. So what do I mean?

Well, there are a bunch of Wi-Fi things which really annoy me:

  • When sitting in a coffee shop trying to register for the free Wi-Fi and it  takes longer to register than to drink the coffee.
  • When I go to visit a company and I have to have a Guest Wi-Fi user name and password for every device I own.

Hence my annoyance. Surely there must be a better way? Why is it all so different?

Of course there are many business advantages of free Wi-Fi. For example, I don’t think I am the only one, that when selecting a hotel from laterooms.com or booking.com, that filters the search with the "free Wi-Fi” option. This means that I don’t stay in hotels unless it has free Wi-Fi. (Hotel owners take note.)

On a recent holiday to Ireland, I got a distinct impression that they did Wi-Fi very well there. The reason is simple. Most of Irelands’ tourists come from outside of the country. So almost everybody is paying roaming data and call charges. It gets very expensive to tweet those beautiful “wish you were here” pictures if you have to upload them over an international data plan.

So I was pleasantly surprised when walking along the beautiful Cliffs of Moher, that there was an excellent Wi-Fi signal. So I tweeted this beautiful picture. I think you can see that it could help you make a holiday decision and is therefore good for the local tourist trade.

I do a lot of international travel, on my own, as part of my job. My Wi-Fi radar seeks out connectivity in hotels, restaurants, music venues, bars, and shops. Almost every conversation starts with "can I have a… and what’s you’re Wi-Fi code?” (Although I did see a sign in New York that said, “We don’t have a Wi-Fi code, talk to the guy next to you!”)

So what drives these inconsistencies? I think it is a little fear, a lack of knowledge, and a touch of paranoia.

The fear is litigation. If you offer public Wi-Fi access, depending on your local laws, you have to understand:

Data Privacy. In the UK the Data Privacy Act 1998 deals with legal obligations concerning personal data associated with individuals.

Data Retention. In the European Union under certain directives, it is important to retain data that can aid in the prevention and detection of organised crime and terrorism.

Illegal Online Activity. Again in the UK, the Digital Economy Act 2010 looks at copyright infringements and can make the provider responsible if their infrastructure is misused for illegal downloads.

Whilst this varies all over the world, none of these should be considered problems – simply considerations that any good accredited Solution Provider can solve. I always say that the word “solution” cannot exist without the word “problem” and a lot of ShoreTel's partners are excellent Solution Providers.

Have a look at Purple Wi-Fi. This company can take the fear away by providing the logging, tracking and storing capability required under this legislation. Some business purchase business Wi-Fi solutions from carriers such as BT and O2 in the UK. Again providing universal access, and some digital signatures and apps so that you can automatically log in.

Of course I like free Wi-Fi, so I can surf, read, and interact with my ShoreTel Mobility Solution, even talk, anywhere in the world that I can find Wi-Fi.