The companies announced Monday the launch of their hot spot effort and plan to have up to 10,000 hot spots across North America by the end of the year. Toshiba will provide the networking hardware, and Accenture will support the business and operational needs of the effort, including network operations, billing and settlements processing, and help desk support. The companies will target operators who will install the networks in coffee shops, hotels and convenience stores, among other locations.
Subscribers will be able to surf the Web and access e-mail through their Wi-Fi enabled notebooks or handhelds and will pay for access with a prepaid coupon, or by credit card for a 24-hour connection. Wi-Fi refers to wireless networking technology based on the 802.11b, 802.11a and, by, the 802.11g standards. Toshiba and Accenture will start with 802.11b networks, but will release 802.11a and 802.11g networks later. Hot spot operators will be responsible for selling the service to locations and installing the hardware, while Toshiba and Accenture will be responsible for operational service and support for subscribers.
The hardware for the operators will cost $199. Locations will determine the cost of the service to subscribers, but Toshiba expects it to average around $7 to $8 a day. Toshiba and Accenture will share the revenue with the operator and the location owner.
Toshiba and Accenture are the latest prospectors looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of hot spots and wireless networking technology. Other tech companies, such as Intel and various cellular carriers, have been investing in Wi-Fi one way or another--either directly by selling wireless networking products or byto provide service.
Chipmaking giant Intel has done both as the launch of its latest family of chips,, looms. Centrino will March 12.
Toshiba is also doing both. The company currently offerswith built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, and other notebook makers, such as IBM and NEC, have notebooks on the market with .
Companies such as Cometa Networks and Boingo are providing hot spot services.
The business model for hot spot services has so far not proven profitable, with one of the early start-upsits service. However, many expect some revenue to be generated.
Despite the existence of free, public-oriented hot spots, paid services are likely to take over, Sean Maloney, general manager of the Intel Communication Group, said. After all, service to the hot spot hosts isn't free: They have to pay monthly fees for a wired Internet connection that the Wi-Fi base station connects to.
"It looks like a preponderance of the hot spots will be paid," Maloney said. "There are a lot of people that are going to offer paid service."
News.com's Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.