Estonia is fully covered by wireless Internet. No secret, as they say. There's mobile phones, first of all, as 99.9% of Estonia has been covered by cell networks for years. And then, for gigabyte-hungry home consumers out in the mosquito-crazed woods, there is KÕU, which offers unlimited access for about $25 a month and one of a selection of proprietary receivers costing $150-300.
KÕU, which means "thunder" and is not to my knowledge an acronym (much like "SPA" is not an acronym), is operated by the national energy company. Presumably by the same department that will bring us wireless electricity in a couple years.
KÕU runs on MIULFV, or minimal-impact ultra-low-frequency vibrations. I don't know if there's such a thing as MIULFV, but that is what I tell myself, in the hopes that this thing isn't going to kill the honeybees.
KÕU is fairly immune to the usual speed limitations of fixed Internet networks. You can surf in style using a mobile KÕU modem in a car going 120 km/h down the road. As long as you're driving an automatic, of course.
And -- as long as you're close to a transmitter tower. There are 101 KÕU transmitters across Estonia. That happens to be the same as the number of MPs in parliament, except in the case of KÕU it seems it's not quite enough transmitters, as opposed to too many MPs. Though each transmitter can serve 300 customers at a time, some places fall more than 10 km from a tower and then things get a bit slower.
Our place in Põlvamaa is one of those areas, and it has taken us back to the days of the 56K modem. That said, we expected worse and it has been remarkably consistent. We haven't experienced a situation where 300 people are already using our transmitter tower. Judging from the people ahead of me in line at the Eesti Energia office in Põlva one day, and from the people who shop at the Bauhof, this figure may not be reached anytime soon, despite the impressive computer literacy figures nationwide.
Our receiver is nifty, a little bulkier than a typical modem but with a portable mode. It can be powered by USB -- only then you can't use it as a router for other computers.
We tried plugging it in and setting up a home wireless network, but the signal just wasn't strong enough. It just "acquired network signal" interminably.
As a modem, though, it works dependably. And probably because no one uses KÕU in towns, the signal strength is wonderful there. As it was going down the Tartu-Tallinn highway in a bus today for most of the distance, though people did look somewhat askance at the big white box in the seat next to me. With people having a healthy respect for all things IT-related, no one asked the modem to change seats, though.