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'Hot spots' may be next telecoms development


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'Hot spots' may be next telecoms development


Published on Jul 28, 2003


Telecoms are hoping that cyber-surfers will soon become their newest revenue stream.


At branches of Central Depart-ment Store, notebook PC users are accessing the Internet without a telephone line or mobile phone in sight.


The new system, known as "hot spot", is a high frequency, wireless local area network (Lan) that enables digital devices to connect seamlessly with the Net at the blazing speed of 11 megabits per second.


Also called Wi Fi - short for wireless fidelity - the service is picking up momentum rapidly worldwide.


Among the serious pioneers here is Net provider CS Loxinfo, which is in a good position to roll out hot spots.


Apart from its own leased lines, it could deploy channels from Shin Satellite to back up the service if needed, said Anant Kaewruamvongs, deputy manager of CS Loxinfo.


ShinSat is the parent of Shin Broadband Internet, a major shareholder of CS Loxinfo.


CS Loxinfo aims to install 100 hot spots at a cost of Bt20 million in prime areas: department stores, hotels and even McDonald's.


It has so far set up hot spot systems at more than 20 ve-nues.


The technology is inexpensive compared to costly wireless data transmission technology, called General Packet Radio Service (GPRS).


GPRS was kicked off by cell-phone operators many years ago, but it had few users because of the high rates charged.


Advanced Info Service (AIS), the country's largest cell-phone operator, is backing CS Loxinfo's hot spot project to allow its mobile-phone users to connect, Anant said.


AIS is introducing the service with CS Loxinfo to the public today.


Only a few people had hooked up with the company's service so far, Anant said.


"We don't think it's a waste. But after we reach 100 hot spots and over a certain period of time nobody uses them, then maybe we'll have to rethink the project," he said.


CS Loxinfo charged hot spot users about Bt3 per access minute, almost the same as charged by Singapore Telecom, he said.


TelecomAsia Corp Plc (TA) is another early player.


Recently, it spent Bt1 million to wire the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre with high-speed hot spots.


The convention centre charges users Bt100 to Bt200 per hour for access.


TA president Supachai Chearavanont said the country would soon be covered with hot spots.


He hopes that Thailand would follow the path of South Korea, where people can pick up hot spot kits at department stores for home use.


But one telecom industry observer said hot spots would not become the next craze any time soon.


"There are only about 100,000 notebook computer users here, and less than 100,000 users of handheld devices," he said.


Also, the hot spot services are incompatible.


"All hot spot promoters should connect together like the [banks'] ATM pool for user convenience. This means a CS Loxinfo customer can use TA's hot spot service and pay for it with his CS Loxinfo access card, and vice versa," he said.


Sirivish Toomgum



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