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Technology

 April 13, 2000
Netport To Take On The World As inter-touch

 NetPort Hospitality Systems, a leading provider of broadband and Internet services for business travellers, has launched its new corporate identity and announced a significant investment that will launch the company onto the global stage.

The company will now operate worldwide as inter-touch, the name selected during market research conducted in Europe, Asia, the US and Australia. A global advertising campaign will commence next week, featuring a creative "hands" theme to demonstrate product benefits including speed, ease-of-use and emotional connection between people.

inter-touch President and CEO Terence Nickolls said that the new corporate identity was an integral part of the company's aggressive international expansion and marketing strategy.

"The name inter-touch more accurately reflects the breadth of what we offer - a range of very simple services that allow people to keep in touch with the office, family, entertainment, news and other information via the Internet," said Mr Nickolls.

"Our vision is to make these services available to consumers in any location where access to information is required - in the hotel room, at the airport, in meeting rooms, convention centres, universities, serviced offices and apartments. inter-touch has the management team and funding in place to enable us to deliver on that vision," he said.

Investment To Fund Future Growth

Hong Kong based venture capital group Telecom Venture Group (TVG) has joined with other investors including the founding investor, Technology Venture Partners (TVP), to invest over $15 million into inter-touch, which will be used for international expansion and marketing, further installations and working capital.

TVG invests primarily in communication providers in Asia Pacific. inter-touch is the fourth major Australian company that TVG has invested in, following communications providers PowerTel, WorldxChange and TransAct. Under the terms of the investment, two TVG representatives will sit on the inter-touch Board of Directors.

Only 20 Per Cent of Business Travellers Are "Road Warriors"

Market research conducted on behalf of inter-touch showed that almost all business travellers now carry a laptop computer on the road, and use it for sending and receiving e-mail (100 per cent of those surveyed), carrying presentations and records, word processing, connecting to the office network and surfing the Internet for research, entertainment and leisure.

However, only around 20 per cent could be said to be true "road warriors", able to troubleshoot and manage technology themselves whilst travelling. Around 60 to 80 per cent of business travellers could be considered "computer illiterate", needing everything set up for them prior to departure and given to panic easily if something doesn't work.

Typical frustrations for business travellers connecting on the road include the exorbitant cost of using hotel phone lines, the need to re-connect and change computer settings at each location, the difficulty and slow speed of connecting and the lack of technical assistance.

"inter-touch addresses the needs of business travellers by providing a high speed, easy-to-use service that is consistent from country to country and comes with full technical support, for a low flat fee," said Mr Nickolls.

"Our solution is also the right one for our partners providing the service, as they retain ownership of the customer for billing purposes, and the infrastructure we install can be used for other future value added services such as video-on-demand, making the property ëfuture proof".

"inter-touch is technology agnostic. This means we deliver whichever technology provides the best access to information for consumers, not technology for technology's sake," he said.

From Internet Start-up To Global Concern In 18 Months

Founded in Australia with three staff in November 1998, inter-touch now has 75 people in operations in the South Pacific, Asia Pacific and Europe, Africa and Middle East regions, with numbers projected to grow to 100 by the end of this year.

"During our first year we focused on building relationships with partners, getting installations under our belt and extending our range of fast, secure, easy-to-use communications services," said Mr Nickolls. "Now we are going to tell the world about this well-kept secret."

In 1999, 200 million people used the Internet worldwide, with this figure projected to balloon to 500 million by 2002 (IDC). To support this growth, inter-touch will invest millions installing infrastructure in hotels, airports, convention centres and apartment buildings within the next three years, Mr Nickolls said.

inter-touch now has over 17,500 hotel rooms, 36 airline lounges and five convention centres worldwide, making the company one of the largest providers of Internet and broadband technology to the hospitality, airline, convention and property industries in the world.