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Wed 18 Jan 2006 04:00 AM

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UAE mall spins WiFi web

Dubai-based BurJuman has introduced the “world’s first” WiFi network for shoppers.

Dubai-based BurJuman has introduced the “world’s first” WiFi network for shoppers.

The mall has installed a WiFi network, which allows shoppers to receive what BurJuman bosses claim is up-to-the minute information on stores and services directly to their mobile phones, PDAs or laptops.

According to Kosmo Systems – the firm that set-up the in-mall network - BurJuman is the only WiFi mall in the world to offer such localised content.

“As more and more cell phones and PDAs become WiFi enabled, visitors will expect to stay connected and updated in the mall,” explained Hatem Alsibai, chief information officer at the Al Ghurair Group of Companies, owners of BurJuman. “This service offers them the option of connecting and catching up with friends in the mall, viewing store and product information, navigating mall maps, reading up on fashion news, playing games and more while indulging in an unsurpassed shopping experience,” Alsibai added.

According to Alsibai, a distinctive feature of the system is its ability to provide relevant content to visitors. Each shopper who enters the mall with a WiFi enabled device will be invited to open a BurJuman WiFi account, which will be tailored to their individual wants and needs. Registers shoppers will then receive information on offers and events, which they have specifically requested from their favourite outlets. Shoppers can choose to view the system in Arabic, English and Russian.

“If one looks at the statistics, cell phones and PDAs are poised to become ‘supercharged shopping aids’ for the mobile-centric population here in the UAE,” stated Richard Mayberry, managing director of Kosmo Systems. “By deploying a wireless network offering localised content ahead of its competition, BurJuman is guaranteed to make a stronger connection with its customers and maintain its leadership position,” he continued.

Mayberry also revealed that only 12% of the 500 shoppers surveyed currently own a WiFi enabled mobile phone, but reckons that with so many new WiFi phones entering the market in the next few months that number will exceed 50% of all shoppers in just one year’s time.

At present Kosmo’s WiFi network works with Microsoft, Symbian and Linux smart phones and PDAs, and information can be viewed either in landscape or portrait format. The firm is finalising a separate layout for the Nokia 9500 and 9300, which it plans to unveil next month.

In May 2004, Intel and Kuwaiti service provider, Smartlink Telecom set-up a wireless network in the country's Marina World shopping complex, which they claimed was the first wireless mall in the region. In July 2005, Etisalat’s internet arm, eCompany announced the availability of iZone - a public hotspot internet WiFi service. This is currently available in convention centres, hotels, airports and coffee shops across the country.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian ISP Awalnet is also offering its customers hotspot Wifi internet in cafes, major hotels and airports.

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