Heathrow Airport now has a third Wi-Fi supplier in place - finally adding an element of competition into the departure lounges by undercutting the steep Net access prices charged by existing suppliers.
San Francisco's Surf and Sip has just finished adding hotspots in all four terminals at London's biggest airport. The service is available now but will be officially launched in January.
Surf and Sip joins T-Mobile and BT Openzone but company founder Rick Ehrlinspiel hopes to attract customers on price and reliability. Users will pay £5 per day to use the hotspots - compared to £13 per day for BT Openzone hotspot access and £10 per day at T-Mobile. The £5 fee is also less than the one-hour £6 charged by T-Mobile and BT.
Surf and Sip has built hotspots in other UK departure lounges including Glasgow and Gatwick. It is one of the oldest fee-based hotspot operators in the US, with hotspots in 230 Cafe Neros throughout the UK.
Airports are considered prime locations by hotspot operators because of the volume of business people passing through each day, but airport authorities are notoriously difficult for operators to work with. Disputes have arisen over hotspots in Boston's Logan airport and Dublin's airport when airport authorities have tried to dictate which hotspot operators could offer service.
Ehrlinspiel spent two years negotiating with BAA, the company that operates Heathrow and other UK airports before gaining approval to build there. He started by surreptitiously hanging an access point in a Cafe Nero location in Heathrow. The hotspot lasted for two months before BAA removed it.