Wi-Fi Misses Out on Red Carpet Walk

Opinion: It's a real shame Wi-Fi wasn't given a shot at playing a starring role at the Cannes Film Festival.

CANNES, France—Youd think a man walking down the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival here, wearing his best tux, would have something more on his mind than Wi-Fi.

Well, no. Its been only four months since I was whining about the lack of wireless LAN services in Cannes. Here I am, back again, moaning and groaning about the same subject—but last time, we were at 3GSM. Youd expect wireless coverage at 3GSM to be particularly good; you wouldnt necessarily expect it to be wonderful for the film business.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read "Chic Venue Constrains Wireless Show."

My colleagues in the film world arent exactly technophobes. They are just very, very conservative. A friend of mine who covers the cinema business recently, reluctantly, upgraded his PC to Windows. I had to show him how to use Word because up until the end of last year he was using WordStar, under DOS 4.

Here at the Palais des Expositions Im the guest of NEC. Its virtually impossible to get into the Cannes Festival without NEC on your side because the company provides all the hardware and the networking and the back-end connectivity. The purpose of the visit is to show just what a professional job NEC does of managing the IT infrastructure of the festival—two weeks during which time a staff of 20 suddenly inflates itself to 900.

Heres the weird thing. Orange—or France Telecom, really—provides wireless networking in the press center. It has a hot spot in the main Palais, right next to the famous red carpet. The hot spot reaches out as far as the press conference rooms.

Inside the official press center are 30-odd PCs. Out in the convention and the screenings, there are 4,000-odd journalists—at any one time, around 1,000 of these busy, bustling reporters will be on site, covering the show.

So picture the scene as a big, important press conference comes to an end, and Tommy Lee Jones has startled everybody by turning out to be a really good film director. The presentation ends, and all the excited hacks want to file their stories RIGHT NOW!

What happens? Obvious, surely: They are online, connected to the Internet, and so they just press "Send," and their story is filed, right?


"They all jump out of their chairs, and sprint for the press center, hoping to be first to get a PC," says Jean Claude Tagger, senior vice president and general manager of NEC International Group. He waves his hands with a very Gallic flourish. "I dont know why they dont use the Wi-Fi," he shrugs. "They are not technophiles!"

/zimages/1/28571.gifThe Wi-Fi Alliance is pushing WLAN security. Click here to read more.

The thing is, they do all have notebooks. They do sit in the auditorium for the press conference, most making notes on notebooks—paper and pen, of course—and a few using their own PC or even, in one or two cases, Mac laptops.

Next Page: A jaw-dropping sight.