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Frozen polar waste gets Wi-Fi hotspot

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Intel has rigged up a Wi-Fi hotspot just 80km from the North Pole, presumably so that Sir Ranaulph Fiennes and his ilk can check his email next time they take a little stroll across the ice-pack.

The hotspot was set up by two Intel employees who recently went on an expedition to ninety degrees north. The adventurous staffers installed an 802.11b/g access point at the main camp site, and a wireless LAN of three IBM T41 and T42 Centrino notebooks.

The access point is near the Barneo ice camp, located on the 89th northern parallel. The tented camp is used to support a variety of research expeditions in the Arctic region. It is not occupied year-round, since its safety is somewhat contingent on favourable weather conditions.

The installation was designed as a test to find out what the limits of the technology are - as well as the limits of journalists' appetite for stupid press stunts. The arctic circle is not an especially forgiving environment, even in April, when the camp is usually inhabited. Temperatures rarely top -22°C, and the average humidity is 85 per cent.

The cold is particularly hard on LCD screens and battery life, and the humidity along with the large variations in temperature between inside and outdoors can lead to condensation forming inside machines. Not good.

However, the network is up and running and can now be accessed by any camp visitor carrying a mobile PC or a pocket PC supporting wireless standards, according to the chip-maker. The network connects to the internet via an iridium satellite phone.

The Intel staffers then went to camp NP-33, the only drifting polar scientific station in the world, to give the researchers there a Centrino-based IBM T42 notebook.

Some might say that this is a clear sign that Intel's wireless strategy is adrift. Others might think it has more to do with the benefits of floating IP addresses. We're pretty sure anyone suggesting such terrible puns in this office would immediately be escorted out of the building and asked not to return. ®

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