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Petty Officer 1st Class James Little uses his laptop computer in the Navy Exchange Food Court at Atsugi Naval Air Facilityi. A high-speed wireless internet service was recently added to the food court and other buildings around the installation.
Petty Officer 1st Class James Little uses his laptop computer in the Navy Exchange Food Court at Atsugi Naval Air Facilityi. A high-speed wireless internet service was recently added to the food court and other buildings around the installation. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

A handful of military bases in Japan are getting what’s already available at hundreds of coffee shops in Seattle and San Francisco: wireless, high-speed Internet access up to 20 times faster than a dial-up modem.

Atsugi Naval Air Facility near Tokyo became the latest to get the wireless Internet access. Japan Enhanced Network Services Corp., better known as JENS, unveiled the technology July 14 at Atsugi’s Navy Exchange food court, company officials said. The service became available July 18 at the base’s bachelor officers quarters.

Wireless Internet also became available earlier this summer in select buildings at Yokosuka and Sasebo naval bases.

Wireless Internet is to be installed at all Navy, Air Force and Army bases in Japan and on Okinawa by Sept. 1, said Robert Bailey, JENS military markets department manager. Marine Corps bases on Okinawa and at Camp Fuji currently are not slated to receive the service.

“We had planned to bring this service to Japan for a long time because of laptops and the mobility of our customers,” Bailey said. “It’s just a natural fit for the mobile lifestyle of military members.”

The new technology, called Wireless Fidelity or “Wi-Fi,” lets customers use notebook computers to access the Internet at about 11 megabits per second without wires or a modem.

Wi-Fi enables a personal computer to connect to the Internet via radio signal beamed by an Internet “hub,” or “surf-link zone,” 150 feet to 300 feet away.

Any nearby computer equipped with a slot for a standard PCMCIA (which stands for Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) Wireless Network card can log on. The signal can go through glass, but not metal or concrete, JENS officials said.

Network cards may be purchased at any Navy, Army or Air Force exchange for $55 to $65. About 10 loaner cards also are available for 24-hour periods at each JENS center, Bailey said.

At each access point, JENS installs a compact, wireless base station served either by a high-speed telephone line or modem, Bailey said.

Customers sign up for the service at JENS’ Personal Telecommunications Center on base.

Until Sept. 1, customers can access the system at a promotional cost of $15 for three hours of Internet time during a single 24-hour period. But at Atsugi, residential customers may use the wireless service for free until about Sept. 1, Bailey said. That’s because it was installed to relieve chronic busy signals on Atsugi’s Internet dial-up service.

“We have maxed out on the number of connections that are possible on the Atsugi switch with dial-up customers,” he said.

JENS will use 20 extra high-speed telephone lines to create 14 wireless access points at Atsugi, Bailey said. Each point can handle about 43 Internet connections.

By Sept. 1, Bailey said surf-link zones will be replaced by J*Spot — JENS’ name for Wi-Fi networks known worldwide as hot spots.

Customers will be able to use the wireless J*Spot at any base with an access point by purchasing a prepaid Internet service card from JENS.

Three-day cards will cost $10 and one-week cards $20.

They will be available from vending machines to be installed near access centers.

A 30-day card costing $50 will also be available over-the-counter from any JENS outlet, Bailey said. A listing of access hubs at each base will be posted on JENS’ Web site, www.attmil.ne.jp.

Bailey said JENS eventually hopes to bring wireless capabilities to individual barracks rooms, residential apartments and lodging facilities.

“We’re testing that technology right now,” he said. “I would say late fall, perhaps before Christmas, two or three bases will have J*Spot options in some residential areas.”

Bailey said JENS’ wireless Internet will compete with Americable’s high-speed cable Internet on bases.

“We’ve already spent over half a million — going to a million dollars — to put this service in,” Bailey said. “It’s a big effort.”

Where it's available ...

JENS wireless Internet is available at the following locations:

Atsugi Naval Air Facility: NEX Food Court and bachelor officers quarters. Access hubs will be created during the next several weeks in buildings 1290 (barracks), first- and third-floor lounges; 1289 (barracks), first-, third-, and fifth-floor lounges; and 979, chief petty officer barracks

Sasebo Naval Base: Bayside Food Court

Yokosuka Naval Base: Fleet Recreation Center, third floor; USA Main Street Food Court; and Bayside Food Court

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