AirPort and AirPort Extreme: Using Public Networks, or "Hot Spots" to Access the Internet

You can use your AirPort-equipped computer at public Wi-Fi access points, known as "hot spots", which are frequently available at coffeehouses, book stores, hotels, airports, restaurants, and other public places around the world.
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All AirPort- and AirPort Extreme-equipped computers are Wi-Fi certified 802.11 devices, which means you can use them at public hot spots. All devices that earn the Wi-Fi certification are capable of interacting with each other, regardless of manufacturer. This is why you may see hot spots advertised as Wi-Fi. To learn more about Wi-Fi, see technical document 106421, "AirPort and AirPort Extreme: Certified by Wi-Fi."

There's a movement in progress to set up hot spots just about anywhere you can imagine. The movement can be characterized by two driving forces, which affect how you will log on at the hot spot. The first is commercial network providers. When you subscribe to one of their services, you can access the Internet from any of the hundreds or thousands of hot spots owned by that provider. This is especially useful when traveling between airports and hotels. The second driving force is a grass roots movement of small businesses and local Wi-Fi clubs that establish independent hot spots in a variety of locations.

Joining a network provider's hot spot

To join a network provider's hot spot, you need to set up an account with that provider. The provider typically offers a way for you to sign up immediately, at the hot spot itself. The provider may add variations to this theme, but it goes something like this:
  1. Choose the provider's network from the AirPort menu, just as you would choose your own AirPort Base Station.
  2. Open a Web browser, such as Safari.
  3. The provider automatically pushes a page to your browser, or you enter the address specified in writing at the hot spot.
  4. The page offers you a form where existing account holders may log in, and it includes a link for new customers to set up an account.

If your experience differs, follow the instructions that you find at the hot spot.

Joining an independent hot spot

The experience at non-network hot spots varies and is generally less formal (you are not as likely to see a web-based subscription form). Typically, you will choose the network from the AirPort menu, just as you would your own AirPort Base Station. If access is unrestricted, nothing else is required. If access is restricted, you would enter a password when prompted, just as you would for a password-protected AirPort Base Station.

You might get the password of the day if you buy a latté at a coffeehouse, for example. Just ask a staffer at the location what the wireless access policy is.

Establishing a hot spot

If you wish to establish a hot spot at your location, it can be simple. For the most basic hot spot, you only need two things: an appropriate connection from your Internet service provider (ISP) and a Wi-Fi certified wireless access point, such as the AirPort Extreme Base Station.

Because many people may use your hot spot at once, you will probably want to use a broadband ISP, such as a DSL, cable, or T-1 provider. Additionally, make sure not to violate the terms of your ISP contract. When allowing others to join your network, you may need a commercial account with your ISP.

A hot spot may involve multiple devices and may be much more complex. If you have questions about creating a hot spot, talk with a local network consultant. If you think your location might be eligible for contracting with a commercial network provider, you could consider that option.

Finding hot spots and network providers

Well-known hot spot providers in the United States and Europe include:
  • T-Mobile
  • Wayport
  • Surf and Sip
  • iPass
  • Metronet

To locate a hot spot near you, use locator sites like these:

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Document 17159, "Locating Vendor Information" can help you search for a particular vendor's address and phone number.

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Published Date: Oct 7, 2016