Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) and SoftNet Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: SOFN) today announced they have signed a letter of intent to bring SoftNet Zone broadband Internet services to Delta customers at Delta’s gates and Crown Room Clubs. This customer-focused initiative - one of the first such wide-scale programs offered to customers by an airline - will revolutionize the way business travelers stay connected to the Web-based information on which they rely.
SoftNet Zone, www.softnetzone.com, is a consortium of technology leaders including SoftNet Systems, Inc., CMGI (NASDAQ: CMGI), Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE: CPQ), Cisco
(NASDAQ: CSCO) and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) established to offer premium, always on, easy-to-access mobile computing and Internet services, both wired and wireless, to business travelers worldwide in airports, hotels and convention centers.
Delta will provide its customers with SoftNet Zone Internet services on an exclusive basis where those services are offered and will leverage SoftNet Zone’s offerings and airport mobile computing storefront service called LapTop Lane (www.laptoplane.com), currently available in 15 U.S. airports. As a part of this partnership, Delta will gain a minority equity position in SoftNet Zone.
Delta - SoftNet Zone customers using such mobile computing devices as laptops or hand-helds will be able to connect safely and securely to the Internet using a high speed wireless access card. Exact initial airport locations for Delta - SoftNet Zone services will be determined over the next few months. Initial high priority locations include Delta hub airports in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, and Dallas/Fort Worth, as well as cities served by the Delta Shuttle.
Further, a unique broadband multimedia portal, designed by SoftNet and CMGI in conjunction with Delta, will allow the passenger to get updated flight information, make reservations, catch up on their e-mail, access their corporate virtual private network (VPN) and to even get quality video and audio news and entertainment all without leaving their seat.
“Delta’s new partnership with SoftNet Zone supports our strategy of leveraging our core business to look for e-commerce opportunities that create significant value for Delta shareholders, enrich the experience for Delta customers, and build a stronger company for Delta employees,” said Delta Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Leo F. Mullin. “With this wireless technology, business travelers can enhance their productivity at airports by accessing their e-mail, internal corporate intranets, and other informational sites such as news, sports, and weather while waiting for their flights. This means that our customers will never have to seek out a telephone hook-up again whenever within range of a Delta-SoftNet Zone. Additionally, they can also access the benefits of Delta’s Web site (www.delta-air.com), where they can check Delta flight schedules and make a reservation, monitor their SkyMiles accounts, process their Upgrades online and view additional product information.”
“The promise of the Internet became more real today,” said Dr. Lawrence B. Brilliant, SoftNet chairman and chief executive officer. “We believe that the key to explosive use of the Internet is having broadband connectivity that is ‘always on’ and ‘always available’ especially in the hot spots that business travelers need most to stay connected. SoftNet Zone has been moving aggressively to increase the number of such ‘hot spots’ - airports, hotels and convention centers - in which it can provide both mobile broadband communications and business services to travelers, and our partnership with Delta is a quantum leap forward in growing our footprint.
“Delta carries more passengers per year than any other airline in the world, has 153 airports worldwide, 53 Delta Crown Clubs, and further extends its reach with its airline partners world-wide. Delta has made available to SoftNet Zone its cutting-edge communications networks in its busiest airports, which will accelerate our time to market and permit customers to be connected all the sooner. In addition, Delta has agreed to actively marketing this service to its customers, including its 27 million frequent fliers. It is clear to us that Delta shares our vision for bringing seamless communications, content and business services to business travelers throughout the travel ribbon including airports, and in the air, and we look forward to working both with Delta and the rest of the travel industry to ensure that busy travelers are connected wherever they go.”
To take advantage of the wireless connectivity, customers will only need a wireless local area network (LAN) card, available at most local technology retail outlets, or at airports via any commercially launched LapTop Lane and to sign up on line for the service. Registration for the service will be accepted in the near future either through delta-air.com or SoftNetZone.com. It is expected that the users will pay for the service via a monthly access fee.
Delta also plans to work together with SoftNet Zone to develop broadband wireless Internet access onboard its aircraft, along with related content services. Delta and SoftNet Zone will work together as strategic partners as Delta shapes its in-aircraft offering. “Both Delta and SoftNet Zone recognize the importance of a compatible ground and in-aircraft solution,” said Mullin. “This will create a seamless Internet experience for customers and ensure that our flight and cabin crews will benefit from access to Delta’s technology, making our operations more timely and productive.”
Wireless technology to create roaming airline operations
The partnership with SoftNet Zone will also position Delta to enhance its operations by leveraging a wireless broadband connection to Delta’s internal information technology networks.
“With this innovative technology, we can give our people the vital information they need to do their job on site without tying them to a desk or workstation,” said Mac Armstrong, Delta’s executive vice president of operations. “This offers tremendous promise for all of our people, especially for remote workers like our ramp agents and mechanics who must have real-time access to gate and flight information from anywhere and everywhere. Additionally, Delta is exploring various concepts to enhance customer service such as mobile ticketing counters, kiosks and hand-held devices for our agents designed to reduce lines and customer wait times at the airport.”
SoftNet Zone, majority-owned by SoftNet Systems, Inc. in San Francisco, California, will operate wired and wireless local area networks and computing business service centers throughout public facilities frequented by business professionals such as major airports, convention centers, and hotels, making broadband Internet services instantly available to every traveler’s mobile computing device. SoftNet Zone has received $100 million in initial financing from its technology partners who include SoftNet Systems, Inc., CMGI and Compaq Computer Corp. Cisco and Nokia are SoftNet Zone consortium preferred wireless technology vendors providing expertise and wireless technology to the venture.