ISP Channel parent SoftNet Systems Solutions Inc. last week
joined forces with four global Internet companies and secured $100 million in seed capital
for SoftNet Zone, a venture to promote broadband-wireless services to business travelers
The partners -- SoftNet Systems, CMGI Inc. and Compaq
Computer Corp. -- will provide expertise to SoftNet Zone, which will operate local-area
networks and business computing service centers in public places frequented by business
travelers, such as major airports, convention centers and hotels.
Nokia Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. will provide
technological and equipment support and expertise to SoftNet Zone.
"This is a virtual office on the go," said
SoftNet Systems CEO Lawrence Brilliant. "Business travelers don't have cost worries.
They need technology now and need it fast."
There are eight million to 10 million frequent travelers in
the United States, according to Brilliant, and 93 percent of them log on to the Internet
on a regular basis.
SoftNet Zone's service is designed to allow "road
warriors" to tap into such applications as Microsoft Exchange and other services with
the convenience, speed and security of a corporate local-area network.
The service is designed to provide fast, easy and secure
wireline and wireless accesss to the Internet and corporate Intranets in places that are
mission critical to business travelers.
SoftNet Zone also plans on situating skilled in-person
"cyber-concierges" at airport, hotel and convention center locations for expert
The wireless LANs provisioned by SoftNet Zone will use
Nokia's and Cisco's IEEE 802.11 standards-based wireless LAN access points, client
adapters and user authentication technology.
Both companies will provide additional products to enhance
mobility, security and bandwidth management features for the new company's customers.
Customers will be able to use SoftNet Zone's facilities by
paying hourly, monthly or annual fees. The service is expected to initially launch this
year in at least six North American locations and expects to expand to Asia, Europe and
Latin America, Brilliant said.
SoftNet Systems also announced that it had agreed to
acquire Laptop Lane for 1 million shares of its stock, plus the assumption of
approximately $3.5 million in debt.
Laptop Lane is the leading provider of mobile computing and
communications services in airports, with services already in commercial operation in many
of the top major U.S. airports.
SoftNet Systems also reported fiscal first-quarter earnings
last week. Revenue rose to $1.28 million from $444,000 in the same period a year earlier
while the net loss rose to $20.6 million, or $1.08 per share of stock, versus a $6.5
million (77 cents) loss in the year-earlier period.
SoftNet Systems said ISP Channel's cable-modem customer
base rose to 10,384 from 7,376 between the end of September and the end of December, and
topped 12,000 by the end of January.