Skype Access, where a Skype user can go to any Boingo WiFi access point and use Skype Credits to pay for Boingo service on a “per minute” basis via Skype Credits, has so far only been available via Skype for Mac 2.8 beta launched in early January. However, as a St. Patrick’s Day present, Skype announced that they would give away 10,000 free minutes of Skype Access for one week from March 17 to March 23 00.00 GMT. Skype will pick up the first 30 minutes of an individual user’s session under this promotion.
Having failed, shortly after launch in early January, to get Skype Access to work at a local Starbucks, where Bell Mobility has a partner agreement with Boingo, I returned to the same Starbucks (Streetsville in Mississauga, Canada) this afternoon. I can now report that, on launching Skype for Mac 2.8 beta on a MacBook, Skype Access was immediately recognized and a WiFi session commenced.
During this time I successfully made an excellent quality Skype video call to Dan York where the technical specs showed the video to be 640 x 480 @ 15 fps (or slightly greater – recall that Mac webcams do not meet the 30 fps network transmission specifications required for Skype High Quality Video). At 25 minutes I was warned that I only had five more minutes to use Skype Access free; while I certainly went beyond five minutes, I do not see any charges against my Skype Credits when looking at my call history.
Using WiFi at a Canadian Starbucks (provisioned by Bell Mobility) now gives me five options for acquiring WiFi access:
- Skype Access (~C$0.23 per minute using Skype Credits)
- Bell Mobility (C$0.15 per minute via credit card)
- Bell Mobility (C$0.15 per minute charged to my Rogers Wireless account)
- Starbucks Card (free for up to 2 hours daily provided you have used your Starbucks card in the previous 30 days, also available over AT&T in the U.S.).
- Boingo (~C$11.50 per month, suitable for road warriors, provides unlimited access at thousands of North American locations)
Obviously Skype Access is a service that one would use as a last resort in attempting to make WiFi access. For instance, need a quick email check or browser lookup while in an airport waiting room or at a Starbucks between meetings on the road, Skype Access becomes a convenience. Definitely not a service I would use for a two hour meeting requiring Internet access at a Starbucks in Canada.
I also took the opportunity to check out Boingo’s access services. When I booted the MacBook, I immediately received notification that I was at a Boingo access point. Turned on my iPhone with the Boingo client installed; once again I was able to make a connection. However, this required me to navigate through three or more Bell Mobility “login” pages on the iPhone – including having to re-enter my Boingo login data at one point – tedious but I was eventually connected.
I then attempted to access Boingo WiFi on my BlackBerry Bold. Once again the new alpha Boingo client for BlackBerry recognized I was at a Boingo access point; however, i was not able to login successfully. A report is forthcoming to Boingo contacts but I also have reason to believe there is an issue with the BlackBerry WiFi access algorithms on my older, but most recent Rogers, version of BlackBerry firmware in this case.
The key point here is that WiFi access for road warriors is continuously expanding, not only in terms of number of locations but also variety of service options available, even at one location. And Boingo, whose story I have followed since its launch in 2001, continues to expand not only its locations but also the platforms supported.
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