Camper surveys rank Internet access as a highly desirable feature – just as important as pull-through sites and laundry facilities, according to a Nov. 15 story in the Idaho Statesman. And another new player in the Wi-Fi Business, a Boise, Idaho, firm called NomadISP, plans to spin that consumer preference into a business that provides Wi-Fi access areas – or hot spots – to remote recreation areas throughout the country.
Launched in 2003 by Kelly Hogan, founder and CEO of another Boise tech company, LinOra Corp., NomadISP expects to roll out its first sales by early 2004. The company’s equipment will receive signals from a satellite and create a range where wireless Internet access is available – a technology known as 802.11b, or Wi-Fi.
“The technology is to the point where we can just put a box on a pole somewhere, and even camouflage it if needed,” said Hogan, who will start running ads nationally next month in a catalogue targeted at campground owners and park managers.
Separate repeaters can be added that broadcast the signal to a wider area, meaning entire campgrounds could go Wi-Fi. Idaho Parks and Recreation is exploring the possibility of installing Wi-Fi at Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park, located in a remote area just outside of Mountain Home. In so doing, the park could skip installing basic phone lines, which aren’t available inside the park, and go directly to high-speed wireless, at a significant savings, said Wes Whitworth, campground manager for Bruneau State Park.
“The last quote we got to put land lines for phone service out there was about $40,000,” said Whitworth. “And that still wouldn’t give us high-speed capabilities.”
Installing Wi-Fi at the park would allow the park’s observatory to broadcast pictures of the night sky to classrooms throughout the state, Whitworth said.
Serving 21st century campers staying in the park is another issue.
“They come up to the office and want to tap into our phone line now,” Whitworth said. “The demand is there. Our visitors are becoming more techie. More and more customers coming through want to hook up to the Internet, and if we can help them do that, they’ll stay in our park longer.”
The state parks were to continue testing NomadISP´s technology in McCall at Ponderosa State Park , said Hogan, who noted that the technology will work anywhere in North America, which he sees as his market.
“There are 15,000 to 20,000 campgrounds in the United States and about 150 have Wi-Fi,” he said, adding that the potential is there to sell his product to ski resorts and other remote recreation spots. “There’s a huge market,” he said.