Hotspots the DirectWay

By Eric Griffith

March 23, 2004

Satellite backhaul for public access hasn't taken off, but Hughes hopes to change that with a new offering for small businesses.

Usually when you're at a hotspot, you can rest assured that the high-speed connection going from the access point out to the Internet is a T1 line, DSL, or at least a cable modem (dialup, not so much). Hughes Network Systems (HNS) of Germantown, Maryland -- makers of the satellite systems for DirecTV and the broadband system called DirecWay -- wants to make sure easy-to-install satellite is getting its due.

While the company previously announced a service to bring Wi-Fi to remote recreational vehicle (RV) parks, today it said any venue looking to provide Wi-Fi access to patrons should consider their new solution, called DirecWay Wi-Fi Access. While the company release calls it a "solution for the enterprise market," the system is actually meant for traditional hotspot venues (restaurants, hotels, gas stations, etc.), not for large corporations.

Jim Gandolfi, general manager and senior vice president of Hughes, says the system is simply a new application of the same infrastructure they've always had.

"At the venue site, you need a satellite dish, a terminal, and a smart access point. Our solution lets them do this as a standalone public access hotspot or in combination with a network for business," says Gandolfi.

For $1800, Hughes will take care of the full installation of the system, including hooking it to any existing LAN the venue might have. The venue owner pays $99 a month to cover the management of the system by Hughes, which takes care of all the billing, authentication, etc. The costs cover the Internet use by the business employees as well as patrons.

Hughes can also do a revenue share, with 55 percent going back to the venue owner.

The basic service is branded as DirecWay, but Gandolfi says larger customers could brand it (on the splash page, for example) to suit their business.

"We knew we couldn't be bothering to tell people how to get on the system," says Gandolfi. "It's a hands-off operation for the venue. They only need an 800 number to give to customers to call with tech support issues."

Hughes is only pushing the service for North America now, but it is available in 85 other countries where the company can provide service.



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