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Tue 16 Mar 2004 04:00 AM

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Intel celebrates Centrino’s first birthday

Intel celebrated the first anniversary of its Centrino mobile technology this week with news of plans for the roll out of more wireless hot spots across the region.

Intel celebrated the first anniversary of its Centrino mobile technology this week with news of plans for the roll out of more wireless hot spots across the region.

During its anniversary press event the company claimed that over the next few months the number of public hotspots in the region will rocket. Alshaya Retail, the franchise operator of Starbucks Coffee outlets across the Middle East, claimed it is planning to set-up between 75 and 100 hot spots in stores throughout the region, while Saudi Arabian ISP Awalnet is planning over 100 alone in the Kingdom.

"Starbucks continually looks at new ways to enhance and evolve the in-store experience for our customers," said Yann Pavie, managing director, Food Services, Alshaya Retail. "We've known for some time that business people and mobile professionals have used our stores for business meetings or as a third place - a place away from the office and home, to get their work done. By offering the Wi-Fi access in-store, Starbucks hopes to provide additional value to our customers."

Intel, Awalnet and Starbucks previously teamed up to run a series of pilot projects in Saudi Arabia. At one of the pilot sites in Riyadh, Intel claims 1,300 hours of usage were recorded in a month and up to 35 laptops were concurrently connected.

"So far we have discerned two distinct groups of hotspot users: the business users and the consumers," said Mahmoud Soubra, Awalnet’s vice president, Business Development-Marketing. "For professionals, Wi-Fi access is the best way to carry on with their tasks while they are on the move, or simply get their work done in a nice environment outside the office. On the other hand, for consumers, mobility is a way of life, where they can surf the web without being confined to their computer desk at home."

Intel cited a Gartner press release in claiming that the number of worldwide wireless hot spot users will triple this year, from 2003’s figure of 9.3 million up to 30 million predicted consumers.

"The four vectors of mobility afforded by this technology: longer battery life, smaller form factor, wireless connectivity and solid performance have proven to be hits with users in this region," said Aysegul Ildeniz, Intel regional director for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa. "We will keep on working with service providers to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to allow the best experience for our customers."

The birthday event also saw mention of the next possible evolution of wireless computing, WiMax, which uses the IEEE 802.16 standard. Intel is currently running WiMax trials in New Zealand and Russia. The technology works by transmitting radio frequencies over a radius of 30-50km, offering users within that range the chance to connect their wireless devices to a high-speed broadband service.

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