Wireless Ways

Some say it’s a necessity for the hotel of today.

November, 2001

Before the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks, the wireless Internet world seemed wide open to local service providers, particularly the hospitality market. Just two resort properties, the Hilton Hawaiian Village and Halekulani had announced wireless services for guests. Today providers maintain that it’s a service that most hotels can’t afford to be without.

“Even though we’re going through what we’ve got going, we should have been wireless, or we should have been doing Internet access a while ago. So while we’ve got a little lull period, they should be thinking about how they are going to come out of this. So that when the economy settles down, when travel starts to pick up, are we going to wait until the visitors come back to build it?” asks Mike Browning, president and chief operating officer of Pacific DirectConnect Inc. Browning declines to give sales figures, but says total revenue for this year will be 2.5 times what it was in 2000.

Pacific DirectConnect provided wireless access to the Internet for those attending the Pacific Telecommu- nications Council (PTC) 2001 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in January. The PTC’s Executive Director Hoyt Zia says it got a very positive response and that he thinks that smart properties in Hawaii will invest in such systems.

“Hawaii’s hotels are resort, not business, hotels. They lack the amenities that business travelers desire such as sleeping rooms wired for all kinds of communications. It’s a continuing complaint from our conference attendees,” says Zia.

One estimate by Cahners In-Stat, a Seattle-based marketing group, priced the national market for hardware and services to supply broadband wireless Internet to hotels at $230 million by 2002. Already, large, national competitors such as Wayport and LodgeNet Entertainment (NASD:LNET) have made some headway into the local market.

Austin, Texas-based Wayport provides high-speed wireless Internet access in airports and hotels. Its Web site says the Radisson Waikiki Prince Kuhio and Four Seasons Resort Maui are active Wayport properties and that the service is coming to the Waikiki Gateway Hotel and the Waikiki Sand Villa Hotel.LodgeNet Entertainment is a broadband, interactive services provider that specializes in the delivery of interactive television and Internet services to the lodging industry. While the company’s Internet solution is not wireless, it does provide high-speed access to guests at five properties in Hawaii: W Honolulu-Diamond Head, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Grand Wailea Resort and the Outrigger Wailea Resort.

A new local player entered the market this summer. In July, Trex Enterprises Corp. announced the formation of Maui-based subsidiary Loea Communications Corp. to market ultra broadband wireless communications solutions in the state. While Loea had initially announced a focus on providing hotels and guests with wireless Internet access, its Director of Sales and Marketing Dan Evert says that has evolved to focus on conference services and conventions and on neighbor island condominiums.

Loea had a demonstration project set up at the Outrigger Wailea. General Manager Dorsey Brady says he was impressed with Loea’s capabilities. “It’s great stuff. The whole idea is the right stuff. I think what we’ve seen throughout the industry is there’s a lot of it out there. There’s a lot of companies in that business and there’s a wide range of financing opportunities that’s being offered,” says Brady.

Meantime, Pacific DirectConnect’s Browning and others will be beating the hospitality bushes. Says Browning: “We’d like to put wireless at the Convention Center one day. In fact the total vision is to be able to go from a property in Waikiki to the Convention Center with a wireless device and not have to worry about plugging in anywhere.”


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