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Intel procures more partners for hot spots

Add three more companies to the list of those teaming with the chipmaker to help promote wireless access to the Internet: Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Borders Group and McDonald's.

Hot spots may be a sweet spot for Intel, if a new string of deals for the chipmaker is any indication.

On Tuesday, the list of companies teaming with Intel to help promote "hot spots" for wireless Internet access grew by three: Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Borders Group and McDonald's.

The upsurge in Wi-Fi deals and alliances comes ahead of Intel's Wednesday launch of its Centrino wireless technology. The array of new chips and related products is designed to allow built-in wireless capabilities in notebook PCs. Centrino includes the Pentium-M processor, a chipset and a Wi-Fi module.

The hotelier said it plans to install hot spots at nearly 50 of its Hilton-branded hotels and resorts that will provide its guests with high-speed wireless links to the Internet. The hot spots will appear in major cities in North America within the next 30 days, the company said. The next step of the plan calls for an expansion of the access points across Hilton's 230 full-service properties in the United States, Canada and Mexico over the next few months.

The hot spots, located in hotel lobbies, lounges, restaurants and public areas, will use 802.11b networking technology.

Borders Group said that it plans to launch a marketing campaign with Intel to promote hot spots at more than 400 of its Borders Books & Music stores across the United States.

McDonald's, meanwhile, announced plans to test hot spots in hundreds of its fast-food restaurants in New York City, Chicago and a major market in California by year's end, offering one hour of free access to customers who purchase a combination meal. The pilot program currently includes 10 restaurants in Manhattan. McDonalds will use start-up Cometa Networks for hot spot service with Cisco access points and Nomadix's software.

Hot spots are proliferating around the world as a wide range of companies rush to provide Wi-Fi services to business travelers who are seen as more likely than consumers to be willing to pay for wireless Internet access. Many hot spots offer free access, but security concerns often make business travelers leery about logging on.

Other companies that have announced Wi-Fi plans in the past few weeks include Toshiba, Marriott International and Ericsson.