Wi-Fi users in Europe are paying much higher rates than those in the US, according to a price-comparison web site, W-Fi Rates. And we pay more for our hardware too, with IBM Centrino laptops costing at least fifty percent more than in the US. Surprisingly, UK users can find themselves worse off than people in the rest of Europe.

The average hourly rate to use Wi-Fi at a hotspot in the US is $3.75, while in the UK it is £4.41, or nearly $8 (let's compare in US dollars, shall we?). US users can surf for a whole day for $7.70, while the average daily rate in the UK is £10.78 (or $19.37).

While the whole of Europe pays about twice as much as Americans for Wi-Fi access, there are variations and the UK doesn't come off well. Germany, Italy and Spain all get a day's surfing cheaper than Britons (€13.74, €11.45 and €14.25 respectively, which for comparison comes out as $16.71, $14.41 and $17.94).

There are two compensations: by the hour, Wi-Fi is cheaper in Britain than in all the other major European countries except Germany (€5.11/$6.21 compared with our £4.41/$7.93). And we can gloat at the French who have the highest average daily Wi-Fi charge of €25.50 ($32.10).

As if all that weren’t enough, Wi-Fi kit costs more here, thanks to the way dollar prices convert to pounds sterling. The new IBM X40 Thinkpad starts at $1499 in the US, but the cheapest model available here will cost around £1400. Admittedly, The UK's entry level is a bit higher than America's, since the ultra-low voltage 1GHz model will not be sold here, and the cheapest model will have a 40GB drive rather than the 20GB where the US range starts.

"The average spec in Europe is higher than in the US," said Adrian Horne, EMEA ThinkVantage technology specialist for IBM's personal computing division. "We are running fewer models here but that is based on customer data. We tend to hoard data more in Europe."