Travelers, throw your modems away

Last month, Australian software developer NetPort released Netport-Connect, a service that enables travellers to log onto the Net by plugging their computer into serial ports installed in hotel rooms.

The service does not require use of a modem because the serial ports are wired internally to a central server in the hotel.

Use of the service costs 50 cents per minute, with a billing limit of $20.00 per day per person. Access to the service is free after 40 minutes of use.

According to Netport's estimates of standard hotel occupancy, and assuming a 10 per cent guest usage level, usage of the service in one hotel can generate revenues of around $200,000 in one business year. It retains 85 per cent of revenues and the remaining 15 per cent kept by the hotel. Netport does not charge hotels for installation costs.

To enable guests' computers to operate the service, hotels give guests Netport-Connect software disks. The software installation does not require reconfiguration of existing PC settings and the service is billed directly onto guest accounts.

Netport currently has deals in place with ANA and Sheraton hotel chains, and is halfway through a 20-hotel installation deal with hotel chain Mirvac.

Currently, Netport-Connect is installed in 1200 hotel rooms, with 4000 contracted to be finished by the end of 1999.

After a successful trial, the service will also be installed in Qantas Club lounges globally early next year.

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