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Spotlight: HNS Taps Into Wi-Fi Growth Trend

By | March 29, 2004

      Germantown, Md.-based Hughes Network Systems (HNS), a provider of satellite broadband services through its DirecWay brand, has introduced a wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) access service aimed at such consumer-oriented businesses as restaurants, coffee shops, gas stations, convenience stores, hotels, auto dealerships, truck stops, RV parks and marinas. Wi- Fi allows connection to the Internet by creating a wireless local area network (LAN) at a given location, or “hot spot.”

      Demand for broadband Internet access is fueling the growth of Wi-Fi hot spots in the United States that are expected to surge from roughly 5,000 sites last year to more than 42,000 by year-end 2004. As many as 27 million customers are expected to use Wi-Fi service to generate more than $9 billion in annual revenue industry-wide, said HNS officials, who are looking to ride the wave of growth.

      What initially started as a niche service catering to the business traveler in airports and hotels has expanded to include laptop-carrying students, truckers, campers and leisure travelers, HNS officials said. Any person with the appropriate Wi-Fi hardware can establish a connection to a wireless LAN.

      DirecWay’s Wi-Fi Access can turn any retail location into an Internet connection destination that will spur repeat customer visits, attract new patrons and extend peak hours, said James Gandolfi, a senior vice president and general manager at HNS.

      “It’s a winning proposition for a business owner to provide customers with convenient broadband Internet access, and opens up the potential for incremental revenue streams via cross-selling and co-advertising with various other content, product and service providers,” Gandolfi said.

      According to HNS, its DirecWay Wi-Fi Access allows North American retailers to offer consistent, reliable hot-spot service to any or all franchisee or company-owned locations. The HNS service includes providing equipment, installation, and back-end support services, such as customer billing and network management. The Wi-Fi service is available as an upgrade for its current DirecWay broadband satellite services.

      –Paul Dykewicz

      (Arunas Slekys, Hughes Network Systems, 301/428-5502)

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