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Hilton hotels to host hotspots

Borders, McDonalds, Marriott et al too

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Hilton Hotels are hopping on the Wi-Fi bandwagon - due to be given a hefty shove forward tomorrow, courtesy of Intel's Centrino launch - and rolling out hotpsots across the US, Canada and Mexico.

Some 30-odd hotels will be unwired up between now and the end of the month, Hilton said today. Ultimately, the service will be rolled out across all 230 Hilton sites in North America.

The 802.11b hotspots will include lobbies, lounges, restuarants and public areas. The first batch of hotels to gain the technology already offer wired connectivity in guestrooms. The service is aimed at guests, but it's not clear whether other surfers will be able to park themselves in Hilton lobbies and access the Net at high speed for free.

Hilton recently partnered with British Telecom to roll out 802.11b in 40 hotels throughout the UK.

The Marriott hotel chain is embarking on a similar programme.

Intel itself is bending over backwards to drive Wi-Fi take up. Having yesterday partnered with Toshiba to encourage the sale of hotspot hardware, the chip giant is working with McDonals and Borders to roll out hotspots at burger joints and bookstores.

We say "working with" but the reality appears to be companies taking a share of Intel's marketing dollars to associate the Centrino brandname with Wi-Fi.

McDonalds will roll out 802.11b in a couple of hundred eateries in New York, Chicago and one as-yet unidentified California city, according to Bloomberg. Punters can access the WLAN for $3 an hour.

Borders Wi-Fi plan was made public last year. Some 400 shops will be equipped with 802.11b during the first three months of 2003, courtesy of Deutsche Telekom's US T-Mobile subsidiary. Pricing has yet to be announced.

Of course, even all this Wi-Fi activity is a long way off creating a network comparable to cellphone coverage, but unlike true 3G services, at least it's here now. ®

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