RealTime IT News

European Hotels Get Broadband Hook-Up

[May 5] An Australian communications company named inter-touch announced Friday that it will invest around £55 million (US$84 million) to provide high-speed Internet access in European and Middle Eastern hotels.

inter-touch, previously known as NetPort Hospitality Systems, says it has already invested over £68,000 into Britain's Royal Garden Hotel and Millennium Madejski Hotel where it has equipped, respectively, 87 and 140 guestrooms with broadband access. It has also installed similar systems in Le Baron Hotel in Dubai.

inter-touch says it aims to recruit over 30 staff over the next three years to look after its European broadband venture, and will put £15 million (US$23 million) of its total investment into the U.K.

Allan Taylor, president of sales and marketing at inter-touch, said that demand for his company's services was growing steadily because travelers have experienced in-room Internet facilities at major hotels and airline lounges abroad.

"Across the globe, the Internet is becoming a crucial part of business life, and inevitably business travelers will make decisions about where to stay according to the facilities offered," said Taylor.

"Very soon, supplying a room with Internet access will become as important as supplying a telephone, and certainly more important than the minibar!"

However, hotel guests in the U.K. will have to brace themselves for the bill, which will be substantially higher than obtaining Internet access at home or work. The inter-touch WORK-LINK service is charged "at a low price of just 30 pence per minute" (46 cents), up to a maximum of £12 ($18) a day, plus 17.5 per cent Value Added Tax.

In return for what is surely a relatively high price, users get the convenience of a high-speed connection in the privacy of their room. Although the U.K. has hundreds of Internet cafes which offer much cheaper access, they tend to be crowded and extremely public, with systems geared more to e-mail than broadband media.