RealTime IT News

HP Kicks Off Hotspot Initiative

With the hotspot market poised for a boom, HP Monday launched a drive to capture more of the public wireless local area network (LAN) market, offering a suite of 802.11 solutions to hotspot-friendly locales, such as airports, hotels and restaurants.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP hopes to use its traditional expertise in network infrastructure to capture a chunk of the crowded wireless LAN market filled with two dozen upstarts there, like WiFi Metro and Wayport, and increasing interest by wireless carriers.

While the United States has just 4,100 hotspots today, according to Cahners In-Stat, the number of public wireless LANs is expected to reach 41,000 by 2006. HP's hotspot initiative builds off of merger partner Compaq's mobility and wireless services.

"We're taking the parts HP had as well as Compaq's and bringing all these pieces under that common umbrella," said Michael Flanagan, an HP wireless LAN solutions program manager.

Under the initiative, HP offers end-to-end services that include wireless LAN implementation, and support. HP is dependent on partners to provide billing and some network-management services, through its relationships with companies like Boingo and iPass.

Flanagan said HP had partnered with Kubi Wireless to set up hotspots in 9 hotels and three airport lounges in Spain, while it also set up wireless LANs in a few U.S. airports, including Denver's and Minneapolis-St. Paul's.

With the demise of Mobilestar, which built out a network of public hotspots, most famously in Starbucks stores, the public hotspot has moved ahead more cautiously. Wayport, the leading provider of public hotspots in airports and hotels, enlists property owners as partners, enabling it to spread the build-out costs. So far, the Austin, Tex., company has signed deals with 460 hotels and four airports.

In conjunction with HP's hotspot services, the company unveiled new wireless-access devices: three new wireless-ready notebooks and a new line of the iPaq Pocket PC. The notebooks and Pocket PC will have both Bluetooth and 802.11 capabilities. The iPaq Pocket PC H3900 boasts a color screen, a universal remote control, and a digital input/output expansion slot for transferring data.