By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Carriers AT&T Wireless and Verizon recently announced network upgrades that will give dealers something new to talk about.
AT&T announced plans to offer international GSM roaming outside North America for the first time in April or May and plans an April launch of an expanded data service dubbed mMode. For its part, Verizon plans nationwide availability around May of a service that allows users to wirelessly download computing applications and games directly to a pair of handsets.
To expand its international roaming service, AT&T signed more than 25 roaming agreements with GSM carriers in 24 countries to give subscribers the ability to easily make and receive calls using their existing phone number while traveling outside the United States. The agreements also cover the use of GPRS packet-data services.
The countries include England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Spain and Taiwan. AT&T already had a roaming agreement with AT&T Rogers Canadian GSM network.
To take advantage of the roaming service, AT&T subscribers must use a multiband GSM phone, one of which is the new Siemens S46, the world's first hybrid TDMA/GSM phone. It also features GPRS and will be available in April at $199 in AT&T's GPRS markets. It operates in AT&T's U.S. TDMA networks at 850MHz and 1900MHz, in U.S. 1900MHz GSM markets, and in foreign 900MHz GSM markets. The phone lacks analog.
The 3S46 delivers up to five hours of talk time or 200 standby hours on its lithium ion battery. Features include built-in data/fax modem, infrared IrDA interface, synchronization of appointments and address book with Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes, voice dialing and WAP 1.2 browser.
Starting in April, AT&T will begin to significantly expand the selection and geographic availability of content services delivered to handset displays. The new mMode services will be available in the carrier's GSM/GPRS footprint, which is currently limited to 30 cities but will be expanded by the end of the year to all markets and to all cell sites within those markets, a spokesman said. The service will also be available through all of the carrier's GSM/GPRS handsets.
In contrast, AT&T's current handset-based PocketNet data service is available in a more limited fashion. PocketNet is available in the carrier's CDPD network, but only through one CDPD-equipped phone. In addition, AT&T's CDPD footprint is not installed in every one of its voice markets, nor is it available in every cell site in those markets, the spokesman said. CDPD is available in 3,000 cities.
Another mMode advantage is GPRS datarates, which are higher than CDPD's 19.2Kbps.
AT&T also makes content available in its GPRS markets through GPRS handsets equipped with a microbrowser.
Initially, mMode will offer an expanded selection of messaging, entertainment and information services, and later in 2002 it will add EMS and MMS, which AT&T doesn't currently offer. The service will also make it easier to use AOL Instant Messaging, which is currently available on all AT&T phones via two-way SMS.
Verizon plans: As previously reported, Verizon in March became the first U.S. carrier to offer downloadable applications in the BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) language. The service is available in San Diego through two BREW-equipped 2G CDMA phones, a $399 Sharp-made Z800 color-screen phone and a $149 Kyocera phone. A nationwide launch will follow around May. The phones are available in San Diego through direct channels and RadioShack, but more indirect retailers are planned for the national launch.
At launch, the carrier offered 11 downloadable applications, including productivity apps and games, some licensed from Hasbro. Most of the apps can be purchased for $1 to $10, or users can subscribe to an application. Users can also download an app for one-time use as a demo before buying.
Verizon is testing about 80 more apps, and the number of applications will grow weekly for consumer and enterprise applications, said Verizon wireless Internet and data VP Jim Straight. "Initially, we'll see more of a slant to entertainment, then more to the enterprise and to multiplayer games," he noted.
All apps will be available only through Verizon's server to ensure quality control, Straight said.
Although Verizon gets only a small cut of each sale or subscription, he noted, Verizon will benefit from expected churn reduction and revenue from airtime used to take advantage of some of the apps. An expense-tracking app, for example, stores expense information on a Web site, and some games allow users to post their scores on a Web site.
"As the applications get richer, we'll bring this to our 1x network," Straight added.
BREW inventor Qualcomm said BREW is bringing a four-color PC multimedia experience to phones. Paul E. Jacobs, the company's wireless and Internet group president, said BREW will also make it easier to sell phones. "You'll hit two buttons and see moving stock charts," he said. "People will get it much quicker."
Each phone can store multiple apps, which occupy anywhere from 8K-120K of memory. Sharp's phone features 1.5MB of memory. Kyocera's offers 1MB, Verizon said.
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