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SFO switches on wireless LAN

Amid all the hype and hubbub attending so-called hot-spot technology, some impressive implementations of these public wireless LAN networks are worth noting. The San Francisco International Airport, for example, is now providing high-speed wireless Internet access to passengers traveling through SFO via the T-Mobile HotSpot service.

The SFO network will be installed in phases over the next year, according to Scott Hidy, SFO's project manager for information technology and telecommunications. The first phase is completed and currently provides wireless LAN service at United Airlines Gates 80 to 90 in Terminal 3 (including the food court and Hub lounge), United Airlines' Red Carpet Club, and the ticket and lobby area of the New International Terminal Building. SFO has installed 11 power centers in the roof of the International Terminal to provide the service, Hidy said. The rest of the airport will be Wi-Fi enabled by the end of the year, he said.

Wi-Fi (the 802.11b spec from the IEEE) operates in the 2.4 GHz range, providing wireless data transfer speeds up to 11 megabits per second (up to 200 times faster than a modem connection).

Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile USA (http://www.tmobile.com) operates the largest GSM/GPRS voice and high-speed wireless data network in the U.S. The company has been making a splash in recent months with highly public hot-spot implementations in more than 2,200 locations around the country, including Starbucks and Borders Books and Music.

T-Mobile has signed a multi-year agreement with SFO to provide Wi-Fi services throughout the airport, according to airport officials. The company is reportedly paying the airport a $60,000 concession fee for the first year of service. After that, SFO gets an undisclosed percentage of sales revenue.

The service was already available in SFO's American Airlines Admirals Club as part of a previous agreement. T-Mobile had entered into agreements with Syntegra for the network installation.

The airport held a ''cutting the cord'' ceremony last Wednesday, during which San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Intel co-founder Andy Grove ''snipped'' cables that linked a cluster of PCs. Grove was in attendance as part of the firm's effort to illustrate the part of Intel (http://www.intel.com) chips in wirelessly enabling mobile computing devices.

''At SFO, we pride ourselves on being a world-class facility that makes cutting-edge technology available for our savvy travelers,'' said airport director John Martin. For more information on T-Mobile HotSpot service, including a list of active locations, go to http://www.t-mobile.com/hotspot.

About the Author

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

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