Cellular/Wi-Fi Bridges for Rental Cars

The New York Times is reporting (registration required) that Avis Rent A Car plans to offer a celluar-to-Wi-Fi bridging option fo its rental car customers for $11 a day. Although the detail hasn’t yet been announced and the details are still sketchy, apparently Avis will offer the Autonet Mobile Bridge, which can receive data signals from 3G cellular networks and route them via a local Wi-Fi gateway (assuming cell networks permit bridging: some have said their will not), providing in-car (and near-car) Internet services to Wi-Fi enables devices like notebooks, portable media players, GPS units, and more. Although bridges between Wi-Fi and cellular networks aren’t new—Junxion offers perhaps the best-known products, but Linksys is also in the business—the deal would mark the first time such a service has been offered to rental car customers.

The bridge will reportedly operate via a DC adapter for in-car use (so, no batteries), and Avis’s rental agreements would absolve the company from any abuses (e.g., hacking, spamming, intercepting wireless data) which might be perpetrated with its gear.

Autonet Mobile also plans to market its device to consumers, particular folks who drive mini-vans, carpools, and other multiple-occupancy vehicles where mobile Wi-Fi might be a boon for keeping children entertained or co-workers up-to-date on their email. Although many travelers will already have purchased their own 3G cellular access for notebooks and other devices, the Auto Mobile bridges may will find favor amongst traveling groups (families, musicians, company outings, etc.) where Auto Mobile zero-configuration model might have more appeal than the intricacies of existing cellular-to-Wi-Fi gateways.

Just be sure to examine your Auto Mobile Bridge carefully, and note any scratches, dents, or dings on the inspection sheet before leaving the lot. No word on whether additional insurance riders will be available.

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