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TECH HOT SPOTS - Creating a new buzz around town  |  Written by jamaicaobserver.com   |  Friday, 16 September 2005

It may not enjoy widespread support in Jamaica, but for a select but growing group, September means NFL football games. For over a decade (and for some even longer), the American football season has provided an opportunity for some serious diversion and entertainment, enabled by cable and satellite TV.

More recently, technology has again upped the ante. WiFi [short for Wireless Fidelity] hot spots are in an emergent state of development in the corporate area. Several nightclubs and sports bars now offer the facility, and customers are taking advantage of it for both business and pleasure. Basically WiFi allows for an over-the-air interface between a wireless client and a base station or between two wireless clients. This means simply that a person with a laptop - and the applicable wireless communications card or other device - can sit in a café or sports bar and be connected to the Web wirelessly.

How does that connect to NFL football? Casson's Sports Bar and Pub in New Kingston has begun using just such a WiFi hot spot to run what's known as a Fantasy Football league - a sort of parallel virtual league since the season began.

Casson's has in fact been a test site for Copia Wireless Communications Limited - who installed the system - a year ago.

The hot spot has received good public feedback since it was installed.

Speaking with Caribbean Business Report, proprietor Gary Casson said the addition had enhanced the appeal of the venue as a point of contact for serious sports fans.

"The whole interactivity of it has really ramped up the level of interest, as guys can now not only support a team of their choice, they can virtually pit that team against other teams throughout the season."

Casson similarly had high praises for the technology aspect. "Works like a dream," he said. "The connection is fast and is sustained all the way through. We've had no complaints."

CEO of Copia Wireless, Darryl Wehmeyer, states that the demand for hot spots has been getting greater. Copia Wireless will announce the new hot spot locations that will be in the corporate area and Portmore soon. Aside from Casson's, the company has installed the system at Red Bones, Cannonball Café (New Kingston), Heather's Garden Restaurant, D'Roof, and Indies within a matter of days. These hot spots will work in tandem with a newly branded service that will change the way people in Jamaica use the Internet. Access will initially be free.

The main challenge to this growth is, according to Copia Sales Manager Tony Henry, "really just the fact that this is relatively new, and so there's a level of awareness that has to be reached for people to be comfortable with the technology". Some restaurateurs expressed concerns that patrons using Wi-Fi might slow their turnaround, but Henry counters that the service enhances their marketability to increasingly discerning customers, both locally and those from overseas.