11:28 AM

Avis Rent A Car Is Also Avis Rent A Wi-Fi Connection

For $10.95 a day, Avis customers get a small device that creates a Wi-Fi hotspot and connects to the Internet via wireless data connections provided by cell phone service providers.

The Avis Rent A Car counters at San Francisco International Airport have been doing a brisk business this week with its new portable Wi-Fi hotspot service, which turns cars into a mobile wireless hotspot.

"It started Monday and it's been doing very well all week," said a spokesperson for Autonet Mobile, which developed the system for the car rental company. "We're going to launch Tuesday in San Jose." The deployment of the Avis Connect program is scheduled to roll out after that in airport locations in Oakland, Calif.; Los Angeles; and Newark, N.J.

The product takes advantage of the millions of laptop computers that are equipped with Wi-Fi capability. The service costs $10.95 a day. A user simply plugs a small device into the car's cigarette lighter to establish a connection with a laptop or other Wi-Fi enabled device.

The device also connects to the Internet via the CDMA2000 EV-DO cell phone service infrastructure. The spokesperson wouldn't say which cell phone service provider is providing the connections, but the infrastructure was developed by Qualcomm. Verizon Wireless. Sprint, and Alltell all use that cell phone data standard in the United States. Avis said the Avis Connect program covers about 95% of the United States.

The service can deliver speeds between 200 Kbps and 400 Kbps. At its strongest reception points it operates under CDMA2000 EV-DO Rev. A and automatically drops to slower speeds in areas without the Rev. A coverage.

Another advantage of Avis Connect is that the portable unit can be plugged into a hotel or home wall outlet and provide a Wi-Fi hotspot away from a car.

"Avis Connect service is simple to use and does not require any software or technical expertise," said Sterling Pratz, CEO of Autonet Mobile, in a statement. "Anyone who has a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop or device can simple log on and surf."

Avis is stressing that the service is not for drivers. "The service is intended to be used by passengers, when the vehicle is parked , or in locations other than the rental car," the firm said.

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