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Openzone-in-a-box comes to Ireland

Cheap box, expensive access

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Esat BT this week introduced to Ireland a do-it-yourself hotspot product for small business owners who wish to enable their premises with a public wireless network.

Openzone in a Box can be purchased off the shelf and will allow business owners to install their own hotspots for a significantly lower cost than opting for the company's full service solution. It retails for €499.95 (ex-VAT). For this, buyers receive a wireless networking (Wi-Fi) hub which is designed for business use, capable of supporting multiple VPNs. Customers also receive a batch of 60 vouchers which they can sell on to users of the hotspots. The purchase also entitles the premises owner to technical support from Esat BT.

The announcement is the first of a series of developments that Esat BT is promising in its wireless services. The company said that a further product, "Mini-Openzone," will launch in the New Year. This will be positioned between the entry-level DIY solution launched on Tuesday and the full service solution provided by the company at its existing chain of hotspots. The company is also experimenting with outdoor hotspots that are based in telephone boxes and provide wireless coverage within a hundred-metre radius.

Esat BT now has 19 hotspots in the Republic of Ireland. The number has been boosted somewhat be the company's recent deal with the Insomnia chain of coffee shops. Fourteen of these hotspots are in the Dublin area, with further hotspots in Cork, Kildare, Sligo, Galway and Limerick.

The company says it has no immediate plans to alter its pricing for Wi-Fi access, which is quite high compared to similar public hotspots in the US. Costs range from €10 per hour, up to €120 for an unlimited subscription. Alan Hall of BT Openzone said that the pricing might seem quite reasonable to corporate customers in need of widespread connectivity.

Richard Dineen, an analyst at Ovum said that pricing is indicative of the maturity of a market. "Competition tends to drive down prices," said Dineen. "While markets such as Japan and the US may be quite developed, Europe is still in an experimental phase."

© ENN

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