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Megabeam rolls out Euro WLAN network

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Megabeam, the pan-European wireless Internet service provider, has set the pricing for its WLAN hotspot service for the first time.

Subscriptions bought directly will start at €7.5 for two hours' access. Twenty-four hour access will cost € 30 (approx. £19). As you can see from the pricing, Megabeam is targeting the business traveller only.

Megabeam is offering introductory pricing on all other subscription packages (which come without roaming charges) purchased until March 31, 2003. Seven-day and monthly subscriptions carry a 25 per cent discount and are available for € 48.75 (approx. £31) and € 86.25 respectively.

Customers buying annual packages (costing €1020) will receive two years for the price of one, and have the opportunity to secure an additional 10 per cent discount for full payment in advance. The company's resellers will publish their own prices.

Megabeam is building a network of 802.11b WLAN hotspots around Europe and aims to sell wholesale to system integrators, fixed line telcos and mobile operators. The company is also marketing its services direct to corporates, where it argues subscribing to its wireless LAN services provides remote cheaper access than GPRS or hotel dial up charges for businessmen on the move.

Megabeam already has hotspots in Brussels airport, Milan Linate and Rome Fiumicino airports and has locations live in key business centres across Europe, including London, Munich, Zurich and Amsterdam.

The service will soon be live at hundreds of European sites including London City airport and ten other major airports, business hotels, key railway stations and conference centres. Megabeam has also secured a non-exclusive deal to provide its service at 15 major UK railway stations. The service is live at Paddington with a roll-out to other rail hubs across the UK scheduled for the end of the year.

In a move that extends the property portfolio of its wireless LAN hotspots, Megabeam yesterday announced a deal with the Queens Moat House chain to install and operate WLAN hotspots at 27 hotels throughout the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

The service is available to business travellers with wireless Internet enabled laptop computer or PDA. For security reasons, Megabeam advises companies to set up corporate access through its network through VPN clients installed on these devices.

European 3G operators are poised to offer wireless LAN services to businesses at a way of educating road warriors about the benefits of high-speed access on the move.

That's the view of Ryan Jarvis, chief executive of Megabeam, who sees WLANs as a complementary technology to 3G.

"Wireless LANs will be a bridgehead for 3G operators, helping to educate people of the benefits of broadband wireless access and solving immediate business needs. It's highly likely mobile phone companies will offer wireless LANs, prior to encouraging users to migrate to 3G when it becomes available," he told us.

According to Jarvis, telco interest in WLAN services will help the market fragmenting, as it has in the States. He reckons retail-only players, particularly those targeting consumers (an unproven proposition, in his opinion), will have a hard time in Europe because they'll face high customer acquisition costs and competition from national telco players with "deeper pockets".

Headquartered in London, Megabeam also has offices in Rome, Munich, Paris and The Hague. The company is small (just 22 employees), but it has big backers, including Intel and Toshiba(access to Megabeam services is bundled with its laptops) ®

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