Thu, May 22, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Wireless alliance doubles hot spots

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

The nation's wireless hot spots doubled to more than 500 after McDonald's Taiwan, Intel Taiwan and Yaw Jen Technology Co Ltd (曜正科技) linked up yesterday to create a dine-and-surf environment.

Starting today, Web users will be able to sit down with a laptop computer, a burger and browse the Web or check email wirelessly at all 349 McDonald's stores in Taiwan and on the outlying islands.

"The launch represents a giant-step forward for Taiwan's wireless environment," said Simon Hsu (許光成), general manager of Yaw Jen.

He added that the alliance boosts the number of hot spots -- areas of access to wireless local area networks (WLAN) -- from the current 200 to nearly 550.

Yaw Jen is Taiwan's first Internet infrastructure provider specializing in building WLAN systems and offers access to WLAN via its "Easy-Up" service.

As of April this year, the company has set up over 180 hot spots including CKS International Airport, Taipei Sungshan Airport, Kaohsiung International Airport, Breeze Department store (微風廣場) and the Evergreen Laurel Hotel Taipei (長榮桂冠).

WLAN is a data communications system that enables users to connect to the Internet without cables.

By using radio-frequency technology, users can transmit e-mail and browse Web sites via notebooks or personal digital assistants without plugging in.

A network interface card must be installed on a PC and a password from the service operator is needed to access the service.

Laptops with built-in wireless Internet access platforms, such as Intel Centrino chip system, can also make the wireless system function.

"The news is positive ? with the high popularity of McDonald's in Taiwan, chances are public exposure to WLAN will go up as well," said Chou Chun-Cheng (周駿呈), a telecom-industry analyst at the Ministry of Economic Affairs' Information Economics Intelligence Center (工研院經資中心).

He added that for years the nation's WLAN development stalled due to a limited number of hot spots is limited and a lack of public comprehension.

"Most people still have no idea what is WLAN or where can they can hook into the service," Chou said.

In addition, price is another concern, since the demand can't really take off until the price is attractive, he added.

In response, Yaw Jen's Hsu said the company is looking at investing in future promotions.

"In a bid to increase traffic we plan to cut the service charge to a very low level," Hsu stressed.

Currently the company charges NT$50 for a 60-minute wireless connection in McDonald's.

Users can get prepaid wireless connection cards at all McDon-ald's locations in addition to any hot spots which have the Yaw Jen logo.

As of April the company attracted 15,000 regular users and 200,000 registered users.

According to industry sources, last year 600,000 WLAN interface cards were sold in Taiwan, therefore there are still a number of potential customers out there, Hsu said.

Taiwan's largest telecom company, Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信), currently has 20 hot spots -- not accessible with Yaw Jen service -- at the Taipei International Convention Center and Taiwan World Trade Center. The company charges NT$60 for a 60-minute WLAN connection.

Chunghwa had 14,000 registered WLAN users last year.

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