Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Homeworking from pubs

There’s a lot of talk about homeworkers using their wi-fi connections to work away from their home/garden office/shed in coffee houses, but while this seems to work well in the US, perhaps it’s more likely that in the UK we’ll go down the pub route. Indeed, some pubs such as the Huntsman and Hounds in Maldon, Essex, are already selling themselves to businessmen in this way, providing a place to work in a relaxing (and often smoke-free) environment.

“The pub is a different place than it used to be - they're high end places, lots with gourmet food; they're the business place to go for lunch in London and around it,” says George Polk, the managing director for The Cloud , a UK-wide Wi-Fi hotspot network with big plans, especially for pubs.

Big chains are starting to get the idea. Shepherd Neame have been experimenting with wifi in their pubs in Kent, Surrey, London, Sussex and Essex while Wetherspoon’s customers can now take advantage of a free Wi-Fi connection service. Their partnership with ItBox means that when you order your drink or food from the bar you ask for a Wi-Fi voucher which contains an access code for your computer. You can then connect to a network free for 30 minutes. Another purchase, another 30 minutes. Wetherspoon’s head of purchasing, Paul Hine, said: “We really are in a mobile environment at the moment, with more and more people using the Internet for business and pleasure – 24/7. We felt that our pubs offer comfortable and private surroundings, to come to enjoy a drink or a meal and also connect to the Web.”

You can also get free wi-fi access at all Corney & Barrow wine bars in London and you can find a photo guide to London's wi-fi pubs at Silicon.com

Of course there are problems, the major one being the strength of the wi-fi signal in an environment not built for it – microwaves, steel pillars, lighting and large plants can all impoverish the reception. But intelligent placement can get round this – despite a few horror stories of some pubs, I’ve already heard very good things about Corney & Barrow’s spots in particular.

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