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Ericsson to build 'hot spots' across U.K.

The telecommunications equipment maker plans to create 5,000 public Wi-Fi hot spots across the United Kingdom for wireless Internet access.

Ericsson will build 5,000 public Wi-Fi "hot spots" across the United Kingdom for wireless Internet access, the company said Thursday.

Ericsson, a telecommunications equipment maker, said it signed a contract to work with Inspired Broadcast Networks (IBN), which has digital game terminals in more than 3,000 locations in the United Kingdom.

An Ericsson representative declined to provide financial details of the contract, saying only that it was the company's "largest wireless LAN (local area network) deal to-date."

The Swedish company said it would equip IBN's entertainment terminals with public Wi-Fi technology and use DSL to relay the traffic to the Internet.

As hot spots proliferate in cafes, hotels, airport lounges and city neighborhoods, companies from various industries have been seeking ways to provide Wi-Fi services to business travelers, who are more likely to be willing to pay for wireless Internet access. Many hot spots offer free access, but security concerns often keep business travelers from tapping into the network.

Thursday's announcement underscores how the Wi-Fi explosion has created a cottage industry of services and locations needed to set up free public or corporate wireless systems.

IBN said it will work with Ericsson, BT and Intel to create a network it calls The Cloud that will expand to about 30,000 hot spots over the next three years. The company said it plans to sell wholesale capacity to branded mobile and broadband providers, as well as "pay-as-you-go" services at the hot spots.

IBN's announcement coincides with the upcoming launch of Intel's Centrino family of chips and related products designed to build wireless capabilities into notebooks.

The Cloud will launch free trial services from 250 locations by the end April. Commercial service will be available from 1,000 locations by the end of 2003. IBN is a subsidiary of LLG, a maker of coin-operated equipment.