Linksys, Boingo ease Wi-Fi hotspot setup

Offering targets smaller businesses

Small businesses can now turn on Wi-Fi hotspots to compete with better known rivals without the hassle of setting up the whole service themselves, according to Cisco Systems' Linksys division and Boingo Wireless, which on Wednesday announced what they call Hot Spot in a Box.

The feature is available immediately in the U.S. on the Linksys Wireless-G VPN Broadband Router. Once the router is set up on a broadband connection, the business can join the Boingo Roaming System, and Boingo subscribers can use the hotspot just as they would any other Boingo hotspot. Non-subscribers can sign up for a day's service or subscribe to Boingo on-site.

Boingo, along with carrier partners including WorldCom, EarthLink, Fiberlink Communications and Infonet Services, operates about 7,000 hotspots worldwide. This offer is aimed at businesses such as doctor's offices, retail outlets, and office lobbies as well as coffee shops and restaurants, according to Boingo.

Wi-Fi hotspots have proliferated in locations frequented by business travelers, but before the technology catches on with the general public it will have to become "an order of magnitude more pervasive," said Christian Gunning, director of product management at Boingo, in Santa Monica, Calif.

"We think this is the type of product that starts to generate that kind of availability. ... but it's a multiyear proposition," he said.

The small business buys the device and the broadband connection but gets administration support and marketing for free. It also gets paid every time a customer uses the hotspot. The business gets $4 of the $7.95 fee for a day's subscription, earns a one-time $20 "bounty" when a user buys a Boingo subscription at the site and gets $1 from Boingo every time a subscriber walks in and logs on.

Billing and back-office services are handled by Boingo and its service provider partners. Small businesses can turn to Boingo's Hot Spot in a Box administration site to make configuration changes or monitor their traffic.

Businesses with existing Wireless-G VPN Broadband Routers can download the Hot Spot in a Box firmware free from Linksys's Web site, the companies said. The system allows businesses to use the wireless LAN for its own purposes free of charge while offering the public paid access, with a firewall between the two to secure business information, Gunning said.

The router is available now for an estimated street price of $229.99.


Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.