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Blanket Wi-Fi smothers Amsterdam

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Amsterdam is going to be the first European capital where Wi-Fi will be available almost everywhere, not just in hotels or cafes. Startup Hotspot Amsterdam launched a cheap wireless service this week and plans to cover all of Amsterdam with just 125 base stations. The first seven base stations are up and running.

The first phase of the network covers the city's four inner canals, but extending the network will be easy. The company says it uses state-of-the-art - hold your breath - mesh routing multi-hopping algorithms from Dutch company Hopling Technologies, whereby every indoor and outdoor node is capable of relaying traffic coming from any of its neighbor nodes. A wireless meshed metropolitan area, which can support several thousand users, needs only one wired connection to the internet. Which makes it dead cheap.

The initial network will cost around €200,000. For this reason, HotSpot Amsterdam says it is able to charge just €4.95 a day or €14.95 a month for a connection of 256 kilobits per second, which undercuts fees charged by bigger suppliers such as KPN. These companies often sells one hour of Wi-Fi access for €5 and one month for €30. Hotspot Amsterdam also hopes residents will choose a Wi-Fi subscription instead of a fixed-line broadband connection, although power users may find the maximum speed offered (512 kbps) insufficient.

Amsterdam is not the first Dutch town to offer a fully covered Wi-Fi access. The university town of Leiden - birthplace of Rembrandt - already has an open and inexpensive wireless community network. ®

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