The Last 100,000 Miles
Want broadband on the road? Decent options are finally here--for a price.
(Business 2.0) – With Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers sprouting like weeds, these days you can get Internet access pretty much anywhere. So why not in your car? To date, the few options for cruising cyberspace while cruising down the highway have been less than ideal. Satellite access means installing a bulky dish on the roof--OK for an RV, not for a Mini. You can also plug your laptop into a cell phone, but service is spotty at best.
Clearly there's money to be made by anyone who finds a better way. In August, San Diego startup Omniwav Mobile unveiled a 10- by 6-inch router that mounts in a trunk or glove box and connects to the Web using EV-DO, a 3G (third-generation) cellular technology that transfers data at DSL-like speeds. Surfing at 65 mph? No problem, promises Omniwav executive vice president J.C. Fulknier, since the router's external antenna provides more reliable handoffs between towers than you get using a cell phone.
Omniwav doesn't have the market to itself, though. Junxion, based in Seattle, and British startup Telabria Wireless Networks both came out with similar devices within the past year.
Problem solved? Not so fast. The big hitch: price. Omniwav's hardware alone costs $979. Service is an extra $79 a month. "Unless I'm very well off, am I going to spend that kind of money so my kids can surf the Net while we're taking a family vacation?" asks Brian Chee, an analyst with online automotive retailer Autobytel. "I don't think so." -- K.C.