Internet-access solutions provider I-Quest has garnered HK$90 million of investments ahead of its Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) listing to fund its global expansion plan. The firm helps hotels upgrade infrastructure to enable guests to access the Internet at up to 10 megabits per second, 178 times faster than the widely used 56 kilobits per second modem dial-up service. The investments came from locally based Great Eagle Holdings and e-commerce solutions provider Global Sources, Britain-based Thistle Hotels, United States-based GE Capital Equity Investments and Lazard Asia Investment, the Asian unit of French financial group Lazard Freres & Co. I-Quest did not give a break-down of the investment but said it would be used to fund its globalisation effort and development of its interactive business. 'The investment will create higher entry barriers for potential rivals, and will fund our expansion in Europe, where we are the first mover on a chain-wide basis,' said chief financial officer Daniel Widdicombe. The news came after an undisclosed investment in early April by GE Capital, and previous investments of US$10.5 million from other investors, including Nomura/Jafco Investment (Asia) and the Applied Research Fund, a Hong Kong government fund. The GEM listing committee is processing I-Quest's application which was submitted last week. The company said earlier it aimed to raise up to HK$1 billion, but officials would not comment on the specific amount. The company announced two contracts with Great Eagle Hotels International and Thistle Hotels, to boost the number of hotel rooms it is contracted to install high-speed Internet access in to 57,000 from 3,670 in January. A three-year contract with Great Eagle covers 3,888 rooms in six hotels and three serviced apartments, while the contract with Thistle encompasses 9,000 rooms in 56 hotels. The company is planning to increase the number of international offices from six to 20 by the end of the year. Mr Widdicombe expects the hardware investment costs of the high-speed Internet access infrastructure to fall 20 per cent this year, due to economies of scale, without giving the per-room investment cost. It is installing the infrastructure for about 5,000 hotel rooms per month. I-Quest plans to launch a hotel supplies procurement trading portal in co-operation with Nasdaq-listed Global Sources.