Conference pushes wireless message

27 Feb 2003

At the annual Irish Telecoms Conference in Dublin this month Eircom revealed its plans to bundle digital subscriber line (DSL) internet access with wireless local area network (WLAN) packages to small office and home workers in the second quarter of the year.

The cost of the combined package is estimated to be in the region of €500, including DSL access, a WLAN hub and wireless data cards for laptops and personal digital assistants.

“There is a great opportunity in the market for such services,” says Peter O’Shaughnessy, WLAN programme manager. “Our aim is to make such a competitive offering that it will ultimately stimulate the WLAN and DSL market collectively. Individuals or small companies working from home offices can enjoy complete wireless access at speeds of up to 11Mbps.”

The Eircom move follows on from Esat BT and O2 initiatives. Esat BT launched its first WLAN at Dun Laoghaire harbour at the start of the month, marketed under BT’s Openzone brand. O2’s WLAN service went live at 12 locations in Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Cork around the same time.

The conference in Dublin this month dedicated two thirds of its time to wireless issues. Of the three-day event, only one day dealt with the murky fibre optic issues. The remainder consisted of a day dedicated to wireless issues and a final day focusing on Wi-Fi workshops.

The attraction of Wi-Fi to businesses and future home users is flexibility and price. A Wi-Fi network hub can be bought for €350 and access cards for less than €100, providing offices and/or homes with some 300sq ft of 11Mbps (megabits per second) data transmission.

The Wi-Fi revolution has firmly gripped the US where entire cities (especially New York) are covered in public and private WLANs, as businesses, coffee shops and academic institutions succumb to Wi-Fi’s charms.

The same revolution is predicted for Europe and Ireland is well up there with various operators and start-ups establishing relationships with hotels, coffee shops, pubs, railway stations and eventually airports to provide business users wireless broadband internet access for a fee.

By John Kennedy