Free wireless Internet for Bluetooth users

Pointing your Bluetooth device at a box in the airport lounge could get you on the Net for free... Rupert Goodwins, Technical Editor reports.

British startup Red-M is working on a new class of Linux-based wireless Internet products -- access points that give any Bluetooth device in range, Internet connectivity.

Due at the end of the year, the devices are aimed at small offices, retailers, public places and other areas where people might need Internet access.

"We believe Bluetooth will be a ubiquitous technology" says Simon Gawne, vice-president of business development at Red-M. "For something like an estate agency, service providers will be able to drop one of these boxes in and everyone will instantly get connectivity to the Internet. We're also looking at places like airport business lounges, where Internet access for customers with PDAs or laptops will be a major selling point"

Gawne says the products, yet to be named or priced, will offer additional functionality such as a firewall, virtual private network (VPN), voice handling, WAP services and so on. A working prototype will be demonstrated at the Bluetooth Congress in Monte Carlo on June 14 to 16.

As yet, there is no provision for billing, suggesting that with unmetered Internet services delivered to the access point via DSL or dial-up it won't be necessary to charge users. "So far, this hasn't been an issue with the potential customers we're talking to," says Gawne.

Most major Bluetooth chip suppliers are expected to ship commercial quantities of chips within the next couple of months, with product starting to become available in the same timeframe and being widespread by Christmas.

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