Wi-Fi a No-Go in London

My Wi-Fi experience in London has been anything but pleasant. I’ve been using the Surf and Sip network at my local Caffe Nero, and the network has been down every day for the past week. Granted, they usually get the network back up in a few minutes, but still…

Now I’m locked out due to a poorly configured service:

“Warning: fwrite(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /usr/home/freeside/cgi/sns_API_php/sns_socket.php on line 49”

Another issue that annoys me is finding an electrical outlet to plug in my computer. Once you find a Caffe Nero with a Wi-Fi network, you have to find an outlet. This is no small challenge. When we first arrived, I spent the better part of my days looking for a Caffe Nero that offered the ability to plug in. (Starbucks, in my experience, was even worse. I could *never* find an outlet.) However, if you are planning on doing any long-term net usage at Caffe Nero in London, the best one I’ve found is Caffe Nero on Edgeware Road. There are 4-5 tables you can work at easily, and the staff is quite nice. Just make sure you’re a big fan of Company Segundo…because that’s all they play.

One question I keep thinking about is: Who are they targeting? Wi-Fi services in Airports and Hotels has a much more clearly defined target: Businessmen. However, the CafĂ© niche isn’t quite as clear…

– If you are a business man (from the UK), you should have a Blackberry or similar device, or a GPRS account- which means you don’t need the Wi-Fi service.
– If you are a Tourist you probably didn’t bring your laptop and an EasyInternet Cafe is probably the best (and cheapest) option.
– If you’re a geek, you have your own home-made antenna, so you’re not going to use this service.
– If you’re a student you have university access and you probably don’t have money to spend in a Cafe anyway.

Who’s left? People like me that have recently moved or the occasional businessman from outside of the UK.

I’ve only seen 2-3 people on the net here; over the course of a week. Plus, as soon as BT turns on my home connection, I’m out of here- never to pay another pound for Wi-Fi at a Caffe Nero. The directors of Surf and Sip should sit up and pay attention here.

I recommended a pass on a possible Wi-Fi investment in Spain almost one year ago because the economics seemed all wrong…and from my recent personal experience that was a very good call. I really just don’t see this as an attractive business, unless you can completely dominate the market, offer 100% coverage and very interesting prices. Neither of which are the case with the current Wi-Fi offering in London, and it is a service I’m using becuase I really don’t have another option yet…but as soon as I do, they’ve lost a customer.

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