More wireless hotspots open for Netvigator

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 12:00am

Hong Kong's largest Internet service provider (ISP) plans to double its wireless hotspot locations to about 100, two months after launching about 51 locations throughout the city.

Ringo Lau, assistant marketing manager for Pacific Century CyberWorks' Netvigator service, said the main locations the company would target were shopping malls and other retail locations.

The hotspots use 802.11b wireless hubs that transmit up to 10 megabits of shared broadband access to laptops and hand-helds in the vicinity that have receiver cards installed.

Netvigator's expansion will include opening the network up to non-Netvigator subscribers and additional services such as video streaming, because the response from the first phase of the wireless launch was encouraging.

The existing hotspots - located at Pacific Coffee shops, CyberWorks' shops and a handful of other retail locations - had been used mostly by professionals for access to e-mail during office hours, Mr Lau said.

In the early stages, access was limited to Netvigator's 340,000-plus broadband subscribers and 260,000 dial-up subscribers. Now the ISP is taking wireless registrations from people who are not home subscribers and planning to push content and applications to non-business users.

Music, video and news content from the firm's portal is being reformatted to fit into smaller-format personal digital assistants, and Netvigator is considering other services such as stock information and ticketing services.

'To start to cross into the mass market is our overall objective in phase two,' Mr Lau said.

Because of its ease of deployment and low cost relative to other broadband access technologies, 802.11b has become popular throughout the world recently.

In Asia, deployments can be found in Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and on the mainland. In Japan, Softbank recently teamed up with McDonald's and others to launch large 802.11b wireless access networks.

Some companies, such as Boingo in the United States, have positioned themselves as wireless ISPs, but Netvigator chief Dominic Leung said the firm had no intention of labelling itself as such.

Wireless access was an extension of Netvigator's main fixed-line service, he said. 'As an ISP there's an obligation to provide service to our customers wherever they want it.'

Hubs with 802.11b can transmit within a range of about 300 feet. Some of these providers also install amplifiers and other equipment in order to cover more ground.

As of the launch last month, each hub was set up to support six users at a time, meaning access speeds were about one megabit per second.

Charges are HK$3 per 10-minute block, with the exception of Chek Lap Kok airport, where charges are HK$40 per hour.