The hot spot is hot

There has been an explosion in the demand for wireless LAN (WLAN) technologies that is driving growth in newer wireless markets, such as health care, education and corporate office space. According to Brian Cohee, product marketing director at Kirkland, Wash.-based Wavelink, these last two are not about the applications anymore. ''They're about making sure a laptop can connect wirelessly,'' he said. ''They're more about the cost of the infrastructure, the ease of deployment and the cost savings of going wireless.''

Also, the idea of establishing WLANs in public access areas, such as hotels, train stations, airports and even small municipal areas, to create wireless ''hot spots'' is gaining considerable traction. Although real-world implementations are few at present, researchers at Analysis Consulting expect the number of wireless hot spots in public venues to grow to 41,000 and reach 21 million users worldwide by 2007.

''Now what we're seeing is the phenomenon of hot spots being interspersed with bigger cellular networks,'' explained Wavelink's Cohee. ''We're seeing the beginnings of a nice interplay between wide-area applications and wireless LAN applications roaming between the two environments.''

Hewlett-Packard (HP) Corp. announced recently that it is jumping into the hot-spot space with a new initiative aimed at providing high-speed wireless access points in large, public areas such as airports, hotels and restaurants. The company plans to sell customized bundles that include wireless access points and back-end services for subscriptions and billing, company representatives said.

According to HP reps, the networks will comprise 802.11 access points from which users can log on to the Internet with either a wireless 802.11 connection or a Bluetooth link. The company's new services group will offer IT infrastructure support to public venues worldwide.

''HP's Public Wireless LANs are the next frontier of mobile computing linking mobile workers to their enterprise resources and truly extending the reach of business,'' Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HP Services, said in a company release. ''With WLAN solutions already being implemented in airports, retail chains, hotels and other public venues, HP brings considerable expertise in IT infrastructure services and enabling infrastructure to support mobility. HP addresses the full spectrum of the wireless connectivity opportunity better than any other technology company.''

Not to be left off the WLAN bandwagon, IBM announced that it plans to bring Nokia's WLAN solutions to corporate users, and will assist both telecom operators and wireless Internet service providers that may look to offer hot-spot services.

See main story 'Wireless in IT: Still a brave new world.'

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at


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