A consortium consisting of Microsoft, Atcom/Info, CGX Communications, 3Com and Cyntergy announced that it has started commercial trials of a high speed Internet solution for hotels and meeting rooms.
Several hotels on the east and west coasts of the US have started using the technology, called IPORT. It allows laptop users to plug into a special outlet in their hotel rooms and immediately get high speed Internet access.
The hotel must have a special server running Windows NT and Microsoft SQL Server database. All the user needs to have is a notebook with a standard PCMCIA Ethernet card (rather than a modem card), and a piece of free software. The service can be offered free by the hotel, or can be billed to the customer.
The client software for IPORT was developed by Microsoft, with Atcom/Info providing the server portion. The consortium said hotels benefit by being able to offer their customers additional services, but also by offloading the Internet traffic from their phone lines and PBX.
The IPORT system uses the existing phone wires, but sends the signals over another frequency, allowing simultaneous use of the phone and the Internet connection. The Internet traffic will pass over a fast Internet link such as a T1 line.
According to Stan Julien, hospitality industry marketing manager at Microsoft, the company is not working on a Macintosh version of the client software. However he added that such a client might yet be developed, "if there is a market for it".
Microsoft and Atcom/Info said they believed the IPORT system might also be used in airport frequent-flyer lobbies, as well as conference rooms.
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