RealTime IT News

Toshiba Ships Hotspot Hardware

After several months of waiting and testing, Irvine,CA's Toshiba's Computer Systems Group (CSG) has launched its Toshiba Hotspot Solution. The goal: 10,000 hotspots based on Toshiba's hardware by the end of the year.

Toshiba has long seen price as the stumbling block to getting more venues to install hotspots.

"It didn't seem economically rational for the hotspot folks to pay for expensive equipment," says John Marston, VP of Business Development at Toshiba CSG. "The work we've done for the last year and half is about how to take the cost out of the business."

The box Toshiba will provide to channel partners, who will then resell them to venue owners, is an integrated router and 802.11b access point complete with access point controller built in, all for $199 wholesale. The hardware is designed for use with inexpensive DSL lines using dynamic IP addressing, saving a venue owner having to own a more expensive static IP from their provider or a $500+ T1 line.

All the monitoring for the hotspots will take place back at the Toshiba network operations center (NOC). Toshiba will be working with Accenture for the program's business and operational support, from billing to end-user help.

"Think of us as being like Cometa," says Marston, "but cheaper and with a six month lead on them."

The program has been in beta trialing since May of 2002, and as of January 29 Toshiba started to ship full production models of the hotspot hardware.

Toshiba is launching a program with the same business model in Canada, and will hit "country after country."

To identify the hotspots, Toshiba expects venues to us the Wi-Fi ZONE sticker, a program recently begun by the Wi-Fi Alliance. He points out that the sticker can carry a Toshiba logo as well. The upcoming launch of Intel's Centrino mobile platform and its accompanying ad campaign is also likely to help push

The cost of the Toshiba hardware for venue owners will probably be a bit more than $200 (so resellers can see some profit). Marston figures just two or three customers a day at a hotspot paying $10 per 24-hour access will let the venue owner break even: the cost of the box and the DSL line is so low, especially amortized over a year. This is even taking into account a revenue split where Toshiba gets 50%, the reseller/operator gets 30% and the venue owner gets 20%.

Toshiba partners will vary from big nationals to small local resellers, all pushing to get as many hotspots into communities as possible. The Toshiba-based hotspots will also be part of the iPass Global Broadband Roaming service, so corporate iPass users can use them to access their enterprise networks while traveling.

"If you've got 2000 hotspots in your city, it gets interesting. Only two, that's academic," says Marston. "There's got to be tens of thousands of them. I'm confident we'll achieve it."