Wayport Takes Top (Hot)Spot

Wayport of Austin, Texas has had an amazing year. At this time in 2004, the company was operating about 1,000 public access Wi-Fi hotspots in hotels, airports and other locations frequented by business travelers.

Now the company says it is running 6,300 locations nationwide—and is adding as many as 150 new venues each week.

Wayport believes this puts them in the slot of “largest hotspot provider,” overtaking T-Mobile Hotspots, which runs the for-fee wireless service found in Starbucks, Borders Books & Music, FedEx Kinkos, and others.

The tally of hotspots from Wayport takes into account the 3,300 locations the company runs itself, plus the 3,000 managed hotspots that are “powered by” Wayport for other companies, especially partner SBC.

According to Dan Lowden, spokesperson for Wayport, the company also has seen other major milestones, including 600,000 hotspot connections in the month of October 2004, and 5 million for the entire year on just the Wayport hotspots alone (not counting those managed for SBC). That’s up 110% from 2003.

Wayport’s directly controlled hotspots include 2300 McDonald’s locations that are part of Wayport’s Wi-Fi World business model. Wi-Fi World allows others to license use of the hotspots at retail brand locations like McDonalds to their customers. The venues can also use the network for non-Internet use — McDonald’s is already using it to allow credit card purchases of food.

And it’s not just McDonalds: Wayport is installing Wi-Fi World hotspots at Hertz rental car locations at airports around the nation as well.

Lowden says Wayport is expecting to hit 6,000 hotspots on the non-managed side by the third quarter, if work keeps apace.

The company says it can still be differentiated from others by selecting strategic locations—hotels, airports, and retail brands. Wayport charges venues for their services, but it’s up to many of the individual venues whether they charge end users. Knowing that big locations like Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport plan offer free Wi-Fi throughout all gates and terminals for use by travelers and airlines doesn’t deter Lowden, however. He says that McCarran is probably “looking at different business models,” and “it’s all in the promotion of Wi-Fi.”

“It’s important for the industry to know that Wi-Fi is getting organized and the usage rates are developing aggressively,” says Lowden. “[Users] want the same technology they’re using at home and at the office to be everywhere.”

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