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IBM, Intel, telcos mull US-wide WLAN service

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IBM and Intel are drawing up plans with telecom companies to set up a network of wireless data hot spots in the US, according to reports.

Talks about Project Rainbow, which would allow laptop and handheld users easy access to the Web from public places like airports, have been underway for the last eight months, the New York Times reports.

According to the paper, the talks (which involve AT&T, Verizon and Cingular) have led to a plan to create a "company to deploy a network based on a single standard known as 802.11 (sic)" - by which we're pretty sure it means 802.11b wireless LANs.

It's unclear whether the plan can be taken forward to develop a viable business model and unnamed industry sources tell the NYT that a decision on whether to go-ahead with the project, or not, is still some months off. Neither IBM nor Intel is discussing the plan publicly.

The idea of the project is significant, though, because it suggests a possible game plan for luminaries in the industry to expand into the wireless LAN hot spot market, which is expected to grow significantly over the next few years.

WLAN users are expected to reach 147m worldwide by 2007, according to a recent survey by analysts ARC Group. ®

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