What it is: This could be the answer to your prayers. Offered in about 20 airports in the U.S. and Canada, these Aerzone Business Centers (known as Laptop Lane until recently) offer cubicles equipped with Pentium desktop computers, ergonomic chairs, printers, fax machines, telephones, modem hookups and power supplies for laptops, and - yes! - T-1 lines for Internet access. Doors can even be closed and locked for privacy. Many locations also feature meeting rooms seating up to 10 people for conferencing in person, by telephone, or on the Web. Missing a flight, then, doesn't mean you have to miss a client presentation or product demo.
Other pluses: Office supplies are nearby, there's a photo-copier, too, and a handy cyber-concierge stands ready for pesky technical problems. Not to mention the fact that computers come loaded with game software, so you can practice looking busy while decimating imaginary enemies. Just remember that the clock is ticking: Aerzone's rate is $5 for the first five minutes and 65 cents for each additional minute.
If Aerzone isn't now in your airport of choice, it could be soon. The company plans to add more locations as needed.
How it works: Walk in, sign up, and log on.
Any extra equipment needed? No. Aerzone has everything you need to either hook up your laptop or use one of its machines to go online.
WIRELESS BROADBAND INTERNET ACCESS
What it is: This way to surf is new, hot, and taking airports by storm. No wires needed, and no maddeningly slow connections, either. No, this is a double whammy for business travelers: freedom to roam from lounge to coffee shop without being tethered by wires or power outlets, plus the joy of high speed.
Currently offered in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Austin's Bergstrom International Airport, the service is available in airport common areas. And it's provided by two rival Texas firms: Wayport, based in Austin, and MobileStar Network, based in Richardson. Wayport charges $3.50 for an unlimited connection at one location. MobileStar operates as a subscription service, with monthly fees ranging from $15.95 for 200 minutes to $59.95 for unlimited usage; the company also offers a pay-as-you-go plan.
Wayport plans to offer its service in five major U.S. airports and three overseas locations by mid-year. And in a partnership with American Airlines, MobileStar offers its version in 27 Admirals Clubs and gate areas in seven airports. Separately, Aerzone, a subsidiary of Soft Net Systems, offers wireless broadband access in two Canadian airports, Vancouver and Ottawa.
How it works: Small access points hidden in the ceiling or walls every couple of hundred feet emit low-frequency radio waves that "talk" to a laptop's wireless Ethernet card.
Any extra equipment needed? Yes. Laptop users need wireless networking cards to tap into these local wireless networks. Most wireless subscribers use Wi-Fi certified IEEE 802.11.b network cards, otherwise known as Direct Sequence (DS); make sure your network card is compatible, because there are several standards. Newer laptops from Apple, Dell, and IBM can include built-in wireless networking cards, which usually sell for $99 to $250 at retail outlets and airport kiosks set up by wireless providers.