This strange column/article in the Chicago Tribune makes O'Hare sound like a Wi-Fi morass: But it's a bit off-base. The networks deployed in O'Hare and Midway, Chicago's two airports, are temporary mesh networks. The splash screen notes they are beta networks, and the charge is a buck or so less than other airport networks. But the Trib's Jon Hilkevitch is hopping mad for some reason at Concourse Communications, a Boingo Wireless subsidiary that operates Wi-Fi in many major US airports.
He cites "many passengers" having problems, but notes that the airport authority reports fewer than 2,000 tech support calls from travelers about problems logging in and being disconnected. With the number of travelers that pass through O'Hare who might try the Wi-Fi network, this seems like a reasonable problem rate in a network that's not fully deployed.
The writer says that the airport had not renewed a contract with T-Mobile, which makes no sense to me. T-Mobile never operated a larger network in O'Hare than the several airport clubs that they continue to provide service at. These clubs typically have a dedicated high-speed line and a small number of access points in an enclosed space.
A Boingo spokesperson confirmed for me today that the network will be fully launched around Thanksgiving; the current mesh network was meant as an interim effort to get Wi-Fi in the facility sooner rather than later. The spokesperson also confirmed that the network can be overloaded during busy times as it's not designed to be as robust as their permanent network. I have not heard complaints of this sort from other Concourse-operated airports.