Not-so-hot spot at Stansted from T-Mobile

 by Martin Belam, 6 December 2006

On Monday I flew back from London to Salzburg, and in the morning I had about 15 minutes in the Starbucks that is situated by the BBC's White City offices. As I knew I would be at Stansted later in the day and there is also a T-Mobile wifi access point in the terminal building, I signed up at the White City development Starbucks for an hours T-Mobile access, knowing I would be able to log in again later later in the day.

That didn't go quite so smoothly at Stansted however. The coverage throughout the terminal building isn't universal, and so having ordeedr some food and settled down in the Wetherspoon's pub at the end of the departure lounge concourse, I found that the signal was just strong enough for me to be able to connect to the network, but that the level of package exchange was so low that I couldn't even get the T-Mobile login page to load.

Two things struck me about the experience. Firstly, whilst I appreciate that all sorts of quirks with the layout of the building and the nature of nearby electrical equipment can affect the strength of a wifi signal, it is surely better business for T-Mobile to ensure that they have got good signal strength in all of the food and drink places in the terminal, as well as within their own T-Mobile pod.

Secondly, the T-Mobile pod where, I guess, the signal is much stronger, is a great idea in terms of advertising the availablility of the service, but I thought the joy of wireless was that you were free to be online wherever you wanted to be, doing whatever you wanted to do, rather than being chained to a fixed location. In fact, I felt that they might be better off providing a fixed wired connection in the hub, and then boosting the wireless signal elsewhere in the airport.

Another thing I found odd about the T-Mobile pod was that they provide electrical sockets for people to plug their laptops in, but in an international airport they are all exclusively 3-pin British style plugs. Surely it would be helpful for international visitors with laptops not purchased in the UK to either provide some continental 2-pin power outlets, or some kind of optional adapter attached to the 3-pin socket itself?

I did eventually get on to the network at my departure gate, so I didn't feel that I had totally wasted the money I had spent on the access - but I probably only got about half the access I paid for, despite having been sat for a long time unable to connect whilst virtually within line of sight of the Stansted T-Mobile wifi hub.


Not sure you can legally install continental power sockets in the UK, and most adaptors are designed for occasional travellers, not for continual use. But probably T-Mobile are most scared by the liability implications. :-)

Yes, I'm sure there are all sorts of reasons why that wasn't a sensible suggestion.

I think my frustration partially stems from having spent a whole year travelling through Europe now, and being astonished at how foreigner unfriendly UK airports are, with virtually no signage in anything other than English.

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