Using a live Internet connection, you demonstrate your company's new software in the hotel ballroom then, laptop in tow, head to the hotel restaurant to grab a quick bite and check your e-mail. Then, logging on again, you visit your site at a virtualwhile waiting in the lobby for your cab. In fact, you can travel all over the first few floors of the hotel making Internet and LAN connections, thanks to a new wireless LAN service produced by MobileStar Network, a Dallas-based telecommunications company.
There is no modem required for the service, and no physical connection--no more crawling around looking for a phone jack. Once your laptop is equipped with MobileStar Network's RF LAN card and software, you connect via access nodes--panels about the size of a paperback book with antennae--mounted in a hotel's ceilings and walls. Each node has a range of 300 feet, and the Internet connection is handled by T1 lines, 20 to 50 times faster than a typical dial-up modem. "It's like having a T1 line on your laptop," says Dudley Johnson, MobileStar's general sales manager, eastern region.
Not only is access faster, but the systems can handle big file transfers that people normally wouldn't attempt from remote locations, says Johnson. And because the network is independent of the hotel's system, it doesn't overload the hotel phone lines. Access points in any given location can handle 30 to 40 computers at a time if users are just checking e-mail, fewer if they are working on data-intensive programs like PowerPoint.
In partnership with major hotel chains, MobileStar is piloting the network in hotels around the country. One of the first to try it is the Sheraton Imperial Hotel & Convention Center, in Research Triangle Park, N.C. "The download speed is absolutely incredible," says Michael Martino, general manager. "I've tried it, walking with my laptop through the entire ground floor." The wireless network is not only faster, Martino says, but it's cheaper than renting a line. "If an individual wants a dedicated line and doesn't want to go through the hotel switch, it costs $225 per day for each line," Martino explains. "With this wireless connectivity we will be charging half that."
At press time, Martino was getting ready to provide the service for the first time to a meeting. A presenter at the International Real Estate Federation conference will use the wireless connection, although Martino plans to have a wire connection ready as a backup.
In addition to Sheraton, MobileStar has affiliations with Starwood, Patriot American, and Holiday Hospitality Corp., and the company aims to bring the service to convention centers.
MobileStar has established relationships with American Airlines and The Sabre Group, a travel services agency, and plans to have the service available in about 50 U.S. airports by year end. The company is also exploring international markets and sales to individual corporations. MobileStar will list PALs (public access locations) on its Web site, www.mobilestar.com.