On my travels I was always keeping an eye out for complimentary wireless Internet access points as I didn’t really feel like paying the exorbitant data fees. It would have cost me £7.50 per megabyte or, to put it another way, £45 to view this picture of Lake Wanaka at full-size, although this came down slightly (more so for within the EU) after the introduction of the 3G iPhone.
Free wifi was fairly available in New York and over on the west coast of Canada but elsewhere was quite hard to find even in San Francisco. Rumours circulated that Apple would introduce WiMAX support to the iPhone at Macworld to bring it inline with other portable devices.
Apart from the problem of not being ubiquitous, wifi has detractors who claim that there are health risks associated and more places than Sebastopol have backtracked on plans to roll out widespread publicly available municiple networks for this and other reasons.
Despite heavy investment from big names, providers in Australia have deemed WiMAX to be a “disaster”. Accordingly, Intel may be hedging their bets with some research into RCP. Other people (albeit those with vested interests) have predicted that mobile broadband will kill off wifi hot spots in the very near future.
In the UK in the early 1990s there was a mobile phone system of sorts in place from Hutchison Communications called Rabbit. This was the precursor hot spot version of mobile phones as we know them today and were very short-lived.
Regardless of which technology wins out, the investment in infrastructure required to bring around the end of hot spots and the emergence of an internationally agreed standard for a permanent high-speed connection is a good couple of years away yet.