How Many HotSpots doth a HotCountry make?

From home

In my last post (on the BT HomeHub), I commented briefly on the range available from Wi-Fi hotspots compared with a wide-area cellular mobile operator. But what’s the real situation?

Wi-Fi access points might have a typical range of about 30m (depends on lots of complicated radiowave propagation issues and the quality of your access point and device and lots of other things, but bear with me).

According to BT’s own list of hotspots (5.52 MB), there are 9362 of these in the UK, including those provided by other service providers (e.g. The Cloud and T-Mobile) who BT has a roaming agreement with.

By this simple arithmetic, these hotspots currently cover some 25.5 million square metres.

The UK land area is 244,820 square kilometres. That means only 1/9249 of the country’s land area is currently covered. It would take 86.5 million hotspots to cover everywhere. It seems that they are a long way from being able to provide a service which could compete with that provided by mobile operators.

But hold on. According to government statistics, “Over 90 per cent of our population lives in urban areas covering just eight per cent of the land area.” This area could be covered by ‘just’ 7.8M hotspots. Imagine that it costs £1000 to install each of these (including hardware). They’d then cover 90% of the population for 8 thousand million pounds.

Or just 30% more than Vodafone paid for their 3G spectrum licence in 1999. That was before they had even started building the network, which even today does not cover 90% of the population (Vodafone currently say their 3G network covers 73% of the population, compared with 99.7% for their 2G network. See map). It gets better: BT will even get you to pay for the hardware (£200) if you want to help them by adding another hotspot to their network.

Discuss.


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