Visitor-based networking (VBN) is the provision of high-speed Internet access for mobile PC users in need of temporary service in public places. A visitor-based network is most commonly established in a hotel, airport, convention center, press area, mall, university, sales center, or corporate meeting room. For years, mobile users were limited to analog dial-up connections through a PBX system or other proprietary network. Visitor-based networking goes a step further in creating a more efficient and effective work environment for them. It aims to give the on-the-go worker a productive way to temporarily connect PCs to local LANs and broadband Internet connections.
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A visitor-based network usually includes hardware (such as servers, hubs, and routers), telecommunications (an Internet connection), software (a browser), and service (telephone support). Virtually any Internet-based Ethernet LAN can become a visitor-based network by adding a server. The server provides the necessary layer of management between public users and the gateway router to enable a seamless connection for visitors. A successful visitor-based network usually also features additional services like printing and customer support. Many ISPs are building broadband access networks in public places to enable more efficient visitor-based networks.
Technology vendors have developed ways to package their network offerings with billing and management applications that make offering temporary Internet access more than just a convenience, but also a viable business. The key commercial player in the visitor-based networking arena is 3Com; smaller vendors include Elastic Networks and Tut Systems. IT analyst Gartner Group projects the remote Internet access market will hit $31 billion by 2003. It also forecasts that by 2005 half of all remote business users will have remote access connections that are faster than analog modems.