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Solutions that enable small businesses to provide secure, chargeable wireless hotspot services are few and far between and SMC is one of a very small number of vendors that's ever tackled this. It moved in a couple of years ago with its Wireless Hotspot Gateway and printer combo, which did look a great idea but was prohibitively expensive as the router and printer had to be purchased separately. With the new EliteConnect Wireless Hotspot Gateway it's now bundled the lot together and offers the complete kit at a more respectable price.
This new partnership differs substantially from its predecessor as the router has a single WAN port instead of four and the new AG-200E thermal printer is now networked so can be placed anywhere on the LAN. The router's WAN port is the Fast Ethernet variety, which can accept either a suitably equipped xDSL or cable modem but as it's also 802.3af PoE compliant the router can be powered by a suitable PoE device. Essentially you use a single port mid-span PoE injector to which you connect your modem to allow data and power to go down the same Ethernet cable to the router. SMC offers its own SMCPWR-INJ3 UK model, which costs around £50 but for under £20 you could use 3Com's 3CNJPSE instead.
The router authenticates both wired and wireless users and offers its own AAA (authentication, authorization and accounting) service or it can work with a range of external RADIUS servers instead. Either way, you press one of three buttons on the printer, which delivers a ticket with a username and password that you use to log in with to gain Internet access. For wireless access the ticket also reveals the SSID and the WEP key or WPA passphrase. The buttons are assigned different values, which determine how much surfing time the customer has paid for. Installation is straightforward and you can start with a wizard, which helps set up internet access, wireless services, authentication and billing. The printer has its own IP address and is accessed via a browser where you can change its address and set up a shared secret so it'll only work with a specific hotspot router.
Once authentication has been activated any user that tries to access the internet will be redirected to a login web page and after they've entered their details they are free to go. You can add your own logo and text to the standard page or redirect to a custom page where you could show an acceptable use policy, which users must agree to before they are allowed access.