By Perry Wu
Refreshed from the visit to the GL Restaurant (see last episode of 'Wireless in Beijing'), I was ready for Round Two with China Netcom, this time at Beijing's Kerry Hotel (supposedly both the only place to buy prepaid cards and the general Mecca of Wi-Fi).
Lobby of the Kerry Hotel
This time, things went very smoothly. I went straight to the Kerry Hotel's Business Center and asked about the necessary cards. All the staff knew exactly to what I was referring and directed me to a helpful Netcom-published user guide. They also offered me a range of prepaid cards. The pricing of the cards is straightforward. The Business Center carried cards priced at Rmb150, Rmb300, and Rmb600, corresponding to 150, 300, and 600 minutes online, respectively. Simple!
When equipped with a prepaid card, the Mobile Office service is actually exceptionally good, and faster even than that at GL. The laptop again recognized the connection with the minimum of fuss and I was quickly back at the Mobile Office log-in screen. Once you input the Username and Password and connect to the hotspot proper, a window automatically pops up listing the time you logged in and the current time, so you can work out how long you've been online. My only suggestion would be, if possible, to add a third clock indicating how much time online you have left, but hopefully that'll be addressed in the future. Surfing the web itself was terrific, with very good speeds–a traceroute to ChinaTechNews showed speed hops of only 2ms–pretty fast.
With this card, I can now go back to Starbucks in China World to test out their connection, which I am pretty confident will be equally good. I must say, therefore, that Netcom's technology is very good and meets the standards of your average international business traveler. If they can only get the card distribution logistics sorted out, then they will have a terrific service on their hands.
Be There Or Be '3 Canteen'?
My next stop was to the Be There Or Be Square, specifically the outlet by Landmark Towers, conveniently near the Great Wall Sheraton in Beijing. As it turns out, the chain appears to be downsizing, and the Landmark outlet has been renamed '3 Canteen'. Thankfully, the new owners have chosen to maintain BTOBS' free hotspot, so this place is still a good place to go, surf, and eat noodles.
3 Canteen appears to make use of the same free hotspot as I found earlier at the GL Restaurant at China World, offering swift and easy access to the web. Once more my laptop recognized the cytech hotspot immediately and after that I was online. The connection was absolutely fine, and a traceroute for ChinaTechNews registered an average speed of 11ms between hops to the main ISP in Beijing. Overall, a fine hotspot, with that one caveat that you do have to go there to eat or drink to take advantage.
The last stop was Frank's Place by the City Hotel, which has one of the nearest (non-Starbucks) hotspots to Sanlitun (Beijing's bar and nightlife area). Frank's was one of the first places to have a free wireless hotspot in Beijing, I believe, but ever since that announcement it has been plagued with problems. Today, the general consensus is that more often than not you just cannot get online.
Sadly, that was what happened–despite rescanning all channels for fifteen minutes or so, my laptop failed to register any connection at all. Now, from what I gather, this is not to say that you won't be able to get on tomorrow, or indeed, later this afternoon, but for those of you looking for a reliable connection, Frank's is sadly not the place to go.
About the author:
Perry Wu is a writer and correspondent for ChinaTechNews.com and can be reached here at the site. Perry Wu does not hold any positions, long or short, on any of the Chinese or American company securities mentioned in this article.