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Archive for Monday, December 8, 2003

KCI airport unveils ‘wi-fi’ technology

December 8, 2003

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— Wireless laptop computers could become quite a common sight inside Kansas City International Airport.

Officials with the airport and Sprint Corp. last week unveiled a new high-speed wireless technology that will provide travelers quick and easy access to the Internet and e-mail while they await their flights.

The service, known as wireless fidelity or "wi-fi," also will allow business travelers to conduct business at an airport terminal that normally would be limited to the office or home.

"This is a dramatic new improvement," Phil Bowman, vice president of business marketing for the PCS Division of Sprint, said at a news conference at KCI. "Air travelers can stay connected at speeds comparable to DSL and cable."

The wi-fi technology uses radio spectrum to beam data at broadband speeds. People can go online from inside a "hot spot" without the help of any wires.

The insides of all three KCI terminals are hot spots, which means people can access their laptops anywhere in the airport's passenger holding areas, restaurants or concourses.

KCI officials said wi-fi would enhance customer service and make the airport a more attractive draw.

"Wireless technology in an airport is like a utility," acting Aviation Director Phil Brown said. "Airports are in competition for travelers, and this technology will give people another reason to fly out of this airport."

Wi-fi distributors, such as Sprint, have been focusing the service on airports, hotels and convention centers where traveling customers -- especially those traveling on business -- are likely to need quick Internet access.

Bowman said wi-fi would allow business travelers to be productive while away from their office or home. The wi-fi system installation at KCI is part of the airport's $258 million renovation of its three terminals. Although the renovations are not complete -- the Southwest Airlines area, for instance, has not been renovated -- the new system is available inside all sections of the terminals, KCI spokesman Joe McBride said.

The hot spot is inside the terminals only, so wi-fi will not be accessible outside, officials said.

KCI is the first airport hot spot owned and operated by Sprint, company officials said.

The Overland Park-based corporation also said last week that, in partnership with national wireless communications developer Concourse Communications Group, it has made wi-fi access available at New York's LaGuardia and Minneapolis-St. Paul International airports.

Sprint officials said the company would have wi-fi available in early 2004 at New York's JFK and Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan airports.

At KCI, wi-fi users will be able to access for free the Kansas City Aviation Department's Web site, www.flykci.com. The site provides information on all flights that are entering and leaving KCI. They also will have free access to Web sites for the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City and the Transportation Security Administration, McBride said.

Other Internet access will cost users $6.95 for every 24 hours of use. Customers will need a wi-fi Internet card or a mobile device embedded with wi-fi technology.

Sprint officials said that filtering devices in the KCI system would prevent people from accessing pornographic Web sites.

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