A consortium including Microsoft is starting a pilot programme to bring high speed Internet access to hotel rooms. 15 US hotels will initially offer the service, but the consortium hopes to have 100,000 hotel rooms equipped by the third quarter.
The consortium consists of Microsoft, Atcom/Info and CGX Communications. The plans are based on the Iport technology from Atcom/Info of San Diego, California. This technology allows users to plug their laptop into a high speed Internet link, rather than a traditional modem line.
Sherry Isler, director of marketing and communication at Atcom/Info, said users do not need special hardware to access Iport. They do require a notebook PC equipped with a standard Ethernet card (rather than a modem card), and they must install a special bit of software. The high speed link uses an RJ-45 socket, the same socket that is also used for connecting a PC to an Ethernet network.
Through this socket, users plug straight into the hotel's fast Internet connection. Sherry Isler said Iport can offer Internet speeds ranging from ISDN speed to T1 lines.
No pricing has been set for the service. "Some hotels may choose to offer this service free to their guests", she suggested. Isler said the company has already signed deals with some major hotel chains to offer Iport, but said she could not disclose any names.
Isler also said Iport might eventually find its way into airport departure lounges, convention centers and other public places.
Atcom/Info also offers a different type of public internet access with its CyberBooth devices, 400 of which are deployed in the US and Canada. The CyberBooth consist of a computer system hooked up to the Internet.
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