Openzone to offer instant Wi-Fi by Christmas


26 Nov 2003

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Restaurants, bars, clubs and other small businesses all over Ireland will soon be able to offer wireless internet access to their customers using Openzone in a Box, a new €499.95 product that Esat BT intends to launch before Christmas.

The Wi-Fi package will contain a wireless base station capable of delivering corporate-level connectivity, 60 scratch cards for sale to customers, signage to alert customers to the presence of the hotspot and instructions for installation.

According to Alan Hall, director of new business with BT Northern Ireland, Openzone in a Box is a major step forward for wireless broadband access in Ireland. The package is similar to one already available in the UK but is carrier-agnostic and does not require an Esat BT DSL connection. In addition, the base station will offer additional functions such as VPN access and additional security.

Speaking at the launch of the product in Dublin, Hall pointed out that Esat BT/BT NI offers 50 Openzone ‘hotspots’ throughout the island of Ireland and the company’s goal is to have 370 hotspots up and running over the next two to three years. However, the availability of the Openzone in a Box product, he said, could boost this figure to 500.

The company also announced that had entered into a partnership with Dell to offer a free one-month Openzone trial to corporate customers purchasing a Wi-Fi-enabled Dell Latitude notebook.

Esat BT Openzone hotspots can be found in hotels and public areas throughout Ireland. The company recently concluded an agreement to offer Wireless Internet to customers of the Insomnia chain of coffee shops. In Northern Ireland it offers access through its Streetzones, which are located around suitably equipped payphones.

Access to Openzone can be purchased using scratch cards costing €10 per hour or €24 for 24 hours, or by subscribing at €120 per month. Irish subscribers can also access the Internet through more than 400 hotspots in the UK or in Europe and the US through the thousands of hotspots operated by Esat BT’s roaming partners.

By David Stewart