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WiFi Avec Les Frites?

In Belgium, everything comes with frites (that's fries or chips, depending on which English you use). Which sounds OK, though Unstrung is not sure about dipping them in la mayonaisse, a curious local trait.

But we're not here to talk about Europe's culinary delights (though that could be arranged). We're here to talk public wireless LAN (WLAN, or WiFi, or 802.11 hotspots). And Belgium. Again (see Brussels Sprouts I-Mode). The birthplace of Tintin is somewhat lacking at the moment in public WiFi access -- which is strange considering how many among Europe's laptop brigade must frequent Brussels on European Union business. Fly with Swedish airline SAS and you can log on in its lounge at Brussels airport, but there's little, if anything, else.

Unstrung Top 25er Megabeam (see Unstrung's Top 25 Startups) says it is about to change that as part of its plan to be Europe's first pan-European WLAN service provider.

"Belgium will be our sixth country, and that will be announced next week," CEO Ryan Jarvis tells us, though he wouldn't divulge any details, the spoilsport. (And he didn't mention the frites. Maybe he's not targeting the locals.)

The existing countries with Megabeam hotspots are Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the U.K., while Turkey is soon to be added [ed. note: non-existing countries include Ruritania, Lower Slobovia, and Ultima Thule]. In addition, says Jarvis, Megabeam has struck five roaming agreements. Two of those -- with integrator Mikom, for access in Turkey, and with Telia AB -- are public (see Telia in WLAN Roaming Milestone). The Telia deal, with its Homerun unit, offers access in Sweden, Finland, and Norway. The other roaming deals "will be announced in due course," says Jarvis.

Unstrung reckons the CEO had better get hip with the café scene, as the next country he has his expansionist eyes on is France, spiritual home of the deep fried potato. "France is a big focus now. At the moment we can't provide public access, as that is against the regulations, but we have indications that these restrictions will be lifted shortly."

But will it be known as Le WiFi? We hope so. It sounds so much better.

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung
www.unstrung.com
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