Square Mile Wi-Fi

Savvy readers may know that the Financial District in London, shorthand The City, is just a square mile of space, hence the oft-used name the Square Mile.

Yesterday, the City went wi-fi, funded by the City of London Corporation and designed and implemented by The Cloud. The network gives access to over 350,000 City workers, in 95% of the City’s streets (barring private land including the Inns of Court), with the mesh enabling seamless roaming from node to node using a range of portable devices including laptops, PDAs, media players and smart phones. The access is not free, although the first month is free, thanks to Nokia trying to, um, connect people.

The BBC news release says:

The City of London Corporation believes it will be invaluable to traders, bankers and brokers who want access to their data when they are on the move – or out at lunch. “Every second counts when you are doing deals,” explains Simon McGinn from the Corporation.

The Cloud also believes reportedly that

… one of the big attractions will be the ability to use wi-fi enabled phones to make cheap calls using Skype or other internet telephony services. It’s hard to see why well-paid City workers would bother with the extra effort needed to make a wi-fi call – but the City of London Corporation believes it will prove attractive to migrant workers on construction sites.

If you have not already detected a smack of sarcasm coming up, here it is.

Those of my acquaintances, who work in The City, and are likely to be working on said deals, are actually more likely to demonstrate the following behavioural characteristics:

* not leaving their office till unearthly hours rather than be found sitting solitary, or heaven forbid, discussing details with their team in a cafe or an open plaza

* spending time on the physical phone, not worrying about saving pennies through Skype; after all, what is a few hundred pounds when the deal size will be well in excess of £50-100B

* and last but not the least, the number of layers of protection one has to jump through as a valid user of a bank-given-and-owned laptop means that the experience may not be as pleasurable as imagination may lead us to believe, what with a warm, sunny summer forecast for London; indeed many who work on these mega-deals are not allowed to take devices containing sensitive data outside their office buildings

Call me cynical if you wish, but I find the City of London Corporation’s gushing statement about brokers and traders just a tad naive and betraying their lack of understanding of what really goes on in the time-critical business bits in the City.

I am no Luddite so I love such developments, but by whom, how and how much the mesh wi-fi will be used will emerge only with time, and I am sure reality will be quite different from the envisioned usage as usually is the case with technology.

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