T-Mobile Checks in at Red Roof

By Eric Griffith

August 24, 2004

The hotspot provider's new deal with Accor Hotels -- its second big lodging contract this year -- will put wireless into all U.S. Red Roof Inn locations.

T-Mobile Hotspot's network of public venues with Wi-Fi is extensive, and its partners are big names you've probably heard of (Starbucks, FedEx Kinko's, Borders Books). However, until recently, the company didn't make a big thrust at enterprise employees -- unless you count its many airport lounge locations. That's all changed this summer, as the company is now signing up hotel chains to provide mobile workforce customers with wireless connections.

In June, T-Mobile said it would be working with Hyatt Hotels and Resorts across the country. By the end of 2004, it expects to have service in all Hyatt public areas and a few select guest rooms. There are 10 to 15 Hyatt locations now up and running with T-Mobile Hotspot service.

This week, the company announced with Accor Hotels that it would be deploying service in 359 Red Roof Inn locations -- including franchises not owned by Accor.

"[T-Mobile] is 100 percent of our network," says Joe Wheeling, the COO of Red Roof Inns. He says the service "will be a new standard for Red Roof."

T-Mobile is consciously avoiding doing small "one-off" installations of hotspots -- they want to partner only with big, name brand chains, which the company feels provide a more consistent message to end users.

"People know, when they go to Starbucks, they can get service. So now they'll know they can go to Red Roof," says Pete Thompson, director of marketing for T-Mobile Hotspot. "From a brand perspective, it's important that people know they can find service at these locations."

Accor owns other hotel brands, many overseas, including Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure, Motel Six and others. This deal only covers Red Roof, but as an executive vice president with Accor, Wheeling won't discount the possibility of the other brands working with T-Mobile eventually. Some, like Sofitel, already provide some high-speed Internet access (HSIA) through a mix of wired and wireless.

"Clearly, this space is evolving," says Wheeling. "This partnership makes an opportunity for both companies. Since we're both international in scope, this is great long-term."

While some hotels and other hotspots are providing Wi-Fi connections for free -- just like the towels, or HBO -- this deal will fall under the same payment conditions found at all T-Mobile hotspots. For most users who don't subscribe with a monthly flat fee for full access, the day rate is $9.99 for 24 hours of continuous service, and the pay-as-you-go rate is $6 per hour, plus 10 cents for every minute after that.

When asked why Red Roof Inns -- which are economy motels found in 38 of the 50 states -- would charge extra fees, Wheeling says, "We provide exceptional value at Red Roof already. [But] we're reinventing Red Roof and going through a major renovation program. We're coming out with a real modern, contemporary approach to economy lodging. This is a smart amenity that fits with that."

T-Mobile is in the process now of doing site surveys of the Red Roof locations, and will begin installing the hotspots, all supporting 802.11b and 11g, in the next few months.

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