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Hotspots in hotels

I work for a major hotel chain, and we're considering whether we should offer free or inexpensive Wi-Fi Internet access to our guests. Do you see this as something that will become de riguer in the future, like standard "wired" Internet access is now?
Wireless Internet access is growing fast in public venues that are difficult to cost-effectively wire, including cafes, conference centers, airports, and -- yes -- hotels. According to Analysys Research, there were approximately 1.67 million Wi-Fi enabled hotels in the US in 2002, projected to exceed 10 million by 2007.

Pulling Cat5 Ethernet cable through walls can be an expensive proposition, particularly in older construction. Radio networks are faster to build, easier to expand, and capital investment is modest: entry-level Wi-Fi access points have fallen under $100; PC cards under $50. To defray cost, hotels can rent PC cards to visitors who need them. However, more and more visitors will be Wi-Fi ready, thanks to developments like Intel's Centrino.

Charging for wireless Internet access is less clear-cut. Charging for wired OR wireless access requires usage control, monitoring, and accounting. There are several products on the market to create your own "hotspot -- for example, the Proxim AP-2500 or Colubris Networks CN3000. Alternatively, you can partner with a company that takes care of subscriber billing and payment processing -- for example, Toshiba or Boingo. Before diving in, crunch your numbers and learn from those already in the game. For example, read 802.11 Planet's interview with RoomLinX, a wireless solutions provider to the hospitality industry.

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