These day’s it seems that your local coffee shop, burger bar, pub and perhaps even dry cleaners all offer you the opportunity to log in through a wireless network. This has become possible because of another handy little acronym Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi stands for wireless fidelity, and today represents a set of product compatibility standards for wireless LANs. These standards are managed by the Wi-Fi alliance, a consortium encompassing over 260 organisations that are responsible for agreeing the standards and specifications of the Wi-Fi standard. To find out more about the Wi-Fi alliance, check out their home page here.

Wi-Fi of course has proved to be extremely useful for the executive on the go. Nowadays in the sanctity of his first class railway compartment or whilst sipping his double decaff, chocolate chai latte he can still log on and download his email, therefore never being out of the loop for more than a few minutes, or perhaps when he’s sleeping.

It seems that Wi-Fi access is becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Gone are the days when the fact that your local Starbucks was a Wi-Fi hotspot was considered a bit of a novelty, these days’ entire districts are tooling up to be able to offer you continuous access. One of the most ambitious projects of this nature is being planned in the city of London, where the whole area will have access to Wi-Fi, for more details on the initiative check out this site.

Of course 3G offers users the same sort of access to services that Wi-Fi does, and is available in a much greater area. Wi-Fi has a very limited range. Where Wi-Fi scores over its rival though, is that it is much more likely to be offered for free or at negligible cost, and can be used on a pay as you access basis, whereas 3G is generally on a contract.

Wi-Fi and 3G are obviously very different solutions, but there is this interesting area where their functionality overlaps. This should encourage competition between the protocols, which in the long term should be of benefit to us, the end users. Let’s see how it turns out.