Hotels and Intel to Market Wi-Fi

It’s not enough to just build a wireless network for business travelers — they have to know its there. And since Intel Corp. is putting Wi-Fi in all upcoming notebooks based on its Centrino mobile chipset, the chip giant wants to make sure those potential paying customers know where to find access, starting with major hotels.

Intel is teaming with hotel chains like Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, plus lodging and airport Internet provider Wayport, to promote hotspots in hotels. The focus, of course, is on how well the hotspot will work with Intel’s soon to be available Centrino chips.

The deals — some of which overlap as Wayport provides access to some individual Starwood and Marriott hotel properties — include signs at the hotels to identify the wireless network as compatible with Centrino.

The campaigns will also feature direct-mail to travelers and advertising about the hotspots.

In December 2002, Marriott announced a deal with Salt Lake City, UT-based STSN , an Internet provider that specializes in access for hotels. STSN was also invested in by the Intel Communications Fund, which announced last year it would pump $150 million into companies with Wi-Fi developments. In the last four months, STSN has signed up with 70 hotel property owners to provide wireless and wired Internet access.

Marriott’s current plans are for 400 of its hotels in the UK, US, and Germany (out of 2600 hotels world wide) to get wireless Internet access — using both 802.11b and 802.11a standards — in common areas such as lobbies and meeting rooms. 200 properties are running, and the other 200 should be complete by the end of the year at the latest.

Pricing for STSN wireless access at Marriott hotels in the US is $2.95 for 15 minutes, plus $.25 for each additional minute. (Guest rooms in 550 Marriott Hotels usually have wired Internet-access lines that cost $9.95 per night.)

Starwood Hotels runs 750 properties in 80 countries, including the Westin, W, St. Regis, and Sheraton brands. Over 150 Starwood properites are going to get wireless network access in common areas between March and April this year.

Wayport already provides a mix of wired and wireless access at 525 hotels, including the Wyndham and Four Seasons chains, as well as individual deal with several hotels. For example, today the company announced the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites in Los Angeles (part of the Starwood company) would be getting Wayport service: wired in the 1354 guestrooms and Wi-Fi in 33 meeting rooms, the lobby, pool, and restaurants.

Other hotel chains getting behind Wi-Fi include Omni, which in a handful of hotels is providing wireless guestrooms connections for free.