Canadian big rig drivers may soon find wireless Internet access served up along side the daily special when they take a break at their favourite truck stop.

Truckstop.net currently has 110 locations in the U.S. with about two

dozen planned for rollout at major chains such as Husky, Esso and Petro Canada in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. In the next six weeks it is expected that two wireless truck stops will be launched in Ontario — one at The 730 Truck Stop in Cardinal, Ont. and The 10 Acre Truck Stop in Belleville. Plans are to expand the project to 3,000 locations in North America, with 511 ready by April 1.

About 25 per cent of all truckers in North America currently use laptops to conduct business and stay in touch with family and their companies while on the road, said Allan Meiusi, vice-president and COO of Truckstop.net.

“”We call it the mobile SOHO (small office home office). That’s what it is — anywhere between 18 to 23 days a month these guys live in their cab. They use the Internet and their laptops not only as a point of connectivity to the rest of the world but also as a communication tool with family and to do things like online banking,”” said Meiusi.

Users can choose a $4.50 hourly rate, $8.95 daily rate or $44.95 monthly unlimited use rate and sign up to pay with a credit card. They would also get coverage in the U.S. for the monthly rate.

Right now Meiusi says between six to 12 monthly subscribers are signing up per day in the U.S. as well as annual subscriptions, with a dozen to two dozen ad hoc users per day.

“”When they walk into a truck stop they see our sign that says wireless is available and they come on to our network and surf online. We’re also building loyalty programs for the truck stops,”” he said. “”We’re working with the individual truckers to get online and with the application providers for the trucking industry to use the network as a way to leverage another point of connectivity with the trucks and with the drivers.””

Meiusi says 90 per cent of his time these days is spent talking to truck stop owners about how they can become equipped to serve as a wireless hotspot.

“”Eventually we want to bring other value-added services like video on demand, fleet maintenance applications and other conveniences to the trucking space in a bundled service that will go under Truckstop.net,”” said Meiusi.

Truckstop.net partnered with Cambridge-based LogiSense Corp. which will be providing its EngageIP Hotspot Suite of software for the rollout of the 802.11g wireless network. A private company, LogiSense decline to say what the deal was worth.

“”Essentially our role is that our software is the enabler for their business model,”” said Brent Drewry, vice-president of sales and marketing for LogiSense. “”It’s really the heartbeat of rolling out a business model like this.””

There are two components to the LogiSense software. One is a backend billing and subscriber management piece and the other is a piece of software that runs on a device at the edge of the network at each one of the locations.

With the software development side of Truckstop.net based in Toronto, the company was looking for a partner close to home for support reasons, said Drewry.

“”It’s really a subscriber- gateway, traffic management piece of software,”” he said “”Our back office piece gives them central management and central control over billing.

Late last year Truckstop.net announced a multimillion-dollar agreement that includes network services and deployments. Truckstop.net is based in San Antonio, Tex., because the team they work with at Sprint is based in Texas. However, the Canadian operation is in Toronto.

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