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Mobile Trends: Town Cars travel with Wi-Fi

Is Wi-Fi access the competitive advantage that cutting-edge businesses have been looking for? One limousine company believes so and is installing hot spots in its vehicles.

What 21st century technology could soon be coming to a limousine near you? If you said Wi-Fi, you guessed right.

The nation's oldest chauffeured transportation company is poised to begin a mobile hot spot pilot program, proving that it could be just a matter of time before wireless connectivity stretches well beyond the home and office.

Washington, D.C.-based Carey International Inc., which operates a fleet of chauffeured vehicles in 480 cities and 75 countries, has signed a deal with Reston, Va., mobile networking vendor In Motion Technology Inc. to implement its OnBoard mobile hot spot service.

In Motion will enable Carey's customers to use their Centrino-powered notebook computers to access the Internet, check e-mail and access information on their corporate networks, all from the comfortable rear seat of a Wi-Fi-enabled Lincoln Town Car.


Carey will add Wi-Fi to a handful of its Lincoln Town Cars

Devon Murphy, president and chief operating officer of Carey International, said that In Motion's technology will not only help his company transform a number of its Town Cars into complete mobile offices for its VIP clientele, but it will also provide an advantage over Carey's competitors.

Carey is installing the technology in a handful of concept cars in New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. Those vehicles will be available to customers starting next month, but Murphy said similar vehicles will roll out in other cities early next year.

Amy Cravens, a senior analyst with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based analysis firm InStat/MDR, said that many companies in the travel and hospitality industries have been implementing hot spots in airports and hotels for some time, but Wi-Fi technology is now spreading further, to places like vehicles, campgrounds and marinas.

"I think the limousine service is the most unusual I've heard of so far, but Wi-Fi is continuing to spread into other areas. It's primarily for business users at this point, because that's who is carrying wireless laptops," Cravens said.

So far, Cravens said, wireless access hasn't been a major competitive advantage for early adopters, but that could change, depending on how business models evolve.

"I think the only way we'll start to see ubiquitous Wi-Fi is if venue owners put it in place as a free service to drive business, rather than the fee-based model that Wayport [Inc.] and T-Mobile [USA Inc.] are trying to pursue," she said.

Murphy said he expects hot spot access to soon become a standard add-on for many types businesses that deal in goods and services.

"I think it's going to be a differentiator for those businesses," said Murphy, "and from our standpoint, we're getting on the wave early."


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Read why one expert says individuals, not businesses, will drive hot spots


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