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Optical/IP

CeBITTEN by 802.11

HANDOVER YOUR DEUTSCHMARKS, Germany – CeBIT 2003 – Getting connected to the Internet got easier for exhibitors and visitors at this year's CeBIT, as long as they had an 802.11b (11-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) card for their laptop, and €200 in their fine Bavarian calf-skin wallets.

Many private wireless LANs are being operated by individual companies on their stands (we counted eight from a single point in Hall 13), and there is some free 802.11 access in the various U.S. Pavilions, provided by Proxim Corp. (Nasdaq: PROX). But the show organizer, Deutsche Messe AG, employed the services of German carrier Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) to set up a 200-access-point show-wide hotspot to provide paid-for access in all 27 halls.

But not only was the marketing nearly invisible, the prices were astronomical. Access for the show's eight days was €200, one day was €30, four hours was €15, one hour €7.50 -- or 12.5 Eurocents per minute.

Is there any justification for such apparently rampant price gouging? Not really. Proxim, which was a potential supplier of equipment for the show's hotspots, estimates the kit required to support 200 access points and a couple of gateways at $120,000. However, the fair organizers don't need to recoup their costs at this show because this is a permanent system that will serve all events at these showgrounds, of which there are another 14 this year.

"What a bunch of thieving bastards," commented one showgoer, who declined to be named -- or to stump up the cash -- before going off in a huff.



— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung

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