On the Road to Wireless Access

Review: WLAN access services from Boingo, T-Mobile and Gric make connecting easier but lack wide coverage.

Public 802.11b wireless access points, or hot spots, can provide a fast and convenient way to access the Internet and corporate network resources while away from the office—provided you can find an access point when and where you need one and can brave sometimes-confusing setup and payment procedures.

eWEEK Labs tested three services designed to make this process easier by providing users with single-subscription access to hot-spot networks. Overall, we found that Boingo Wireless Inc.s Boingo Wireless service is the easiest to use, Gric Communications Inc.s Gric MobileOffice will offer IT departments the most control over connections, and T-Mobile USA Inc.s T-Mobile HotSpot is the most flexible.

In each case, however, users are almost certain to be disappointed by the dearth of available hot spots. Its much more likely that youll have to go looking for an access point rather than stumble across one, so the question of whether a given service offers the coverage you will need is the most important factor in evaluating a service.

For many potential users of these services, lack of access point availability will prove to be a deal breaker—at least for now. Public access point availability is growing all the time, and having hot spots in key locations—such as an airport you frequent—can make subscribing to one of these services well worth the cost.