Staff On Apr 30 2001 - 6:00am

Cellular Penetration Varies

SAN FRANCISCO — Wireless-phone penetration in the top 10 U.S. markets ranges from 36 percent to 48 percent, pointing to plenty of growth potential if projections of Europe-like penetration levels are to be believed, said Telephia. The company, which collects market data for carriers, said the differences probably result from varying levels of carrier competition, advertising and marketing in each market. Average penetration in the markets was 40 percent. As a percent of total market population, Boston and Washington, D.C., have the highest penetration levels at 48 percent, followed by Detroit and San Francisco with 43 percent, Chicago and Dallas at 42 percent, New York with 38 percent and Houston with 37 percent. Surprisingly, Los Angeles was dead last at 36 percent even though drivers there probably spend more time in their cars than anywhere else.

Subscribers Not Blown Away

BOSTON — Wireless-phone carriers are satisfying their customers but "not blowing them away," the Yankee Group said in releasing the results of a subscriber survey. Of the 3,000 surveyed subscribers nationwide, 75 percent said they are "generally satisfied" with their carrier's service level, but only 41 percent said they are "very satisfied." In ranking carriers by criteria such as overall satisfaction, service performance and improvement, Yankee Group found Sprint PCS, Verizon and AT&T to lead the way. As for what subscribers thought carriers could do to promote subscriber loyalty, 62 percent cited lower pricing and 43 percent cited improved coverage, as one of three things that could be done. "While the industry has been focused on rolling out advanced services, it may be the providers that execute on the basics that ultimately triumph," said analyst Eugene Signorini.

Carriers From Mars, Vendors From Venus

LONDON — Infrastructure and handset manufacturers are more optimistic than carriers about the potential for wireless data, market research company ARC Group said. Based on a survey of 843 industry professionals during the recent GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, ARC found that 46 percent of people working for equipment vendors believe wireless-data revenues will exceed voice revenues in two to four years. In contrast, only 31 percent of carrier employees interviewed felt data revenues wouldn't reach that point for another five years. Eleven percent felt it would never happen.

Wireless-Data Schizophrenia

NEW YORK — Wireless subscribers in the U.S. are less likely to use the wireless Web than their counterparts in four other countries, a survey by Accenture (formerly Andsersen Consulting) found. Yet, users in the U.S. are more likely to purchase products over the wireless Web than their overseas counterparts. The company surveyed users of wireless phones and messaging devices in the U.S., U.K., Finland, Germany and Japan in Q4 2000.

In all the countries combined, only 15 percent of the 3,100 respondents access the Internet through a wireless device, with the U.S. at the bottom at 7 percent.

In contrast, 12 percent of wireless-Web users in the U.S. have made an online purchase compared to 9 percent in Germany, 7 percent in Japan, 6 percent in the U.K., and 5 percent in Finland.

Asked why wireless users don't feel compelled to access the Web, more than 50 percent in the U.S., U.K., and Finland said they saw "no compelling reason to do so." Still, 40 percent of users in the U.S. and Europe find the wireless Web concept "somewhat" or "very" appealing.

Most users use it primarily for e-mail, text messaging, and receiving headline news. When asked what types of information they'd like to receive, respondents in all countries mentioned weather, restaurant information, local community and travel information, e-mail, and news headlines.

Wireless Phone/TVs Due?

REDWOOD CITY, CALIF. Startup Celvibe has developed a real-time MPEG-4 transcoder/streamer that will enable individual carriers to stream multiple channels of live TV to wireless-phone subscribers. The service, if adopted by carriers, would be available to users of 2.5G and 3G phones.

In-Stat: Target Data Niches

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. — Carriers should initially target their wireless data and Internet services to niche users, including business users, rather than a broad customer base, Cahners In-Stat recommended.

"Business users have been the first to adopt wireless data and Internet services, just as they were first to adopt cellular voice services in the 1980s," said analyst Becky Diercks.

Of more than 109 million wireless phone subscribers in the U.S., only 600,000 (less than 0.5 percent) are wireless-data users, In-Stat said.

Besides targeting business users, carriers can boost that percentage by promoting easy-to-use applications and offering flat-rate pricing. Applications that will be the primary draws for consumers will be instant messaging, location-based services, news and alerts, and banking and financial applications, In-Stat said.

Wireless Calendar Syncing

WATERLOO, ONTARIO — Blackberry wireless messaging devices will offer calendar synchronization over a wireless network, thanks to an updated enterprise server from Blackberry manufacturer Research In Motion.

To synchronize their Blackberry calendars, users currently must dock the device with their PC when they return to the office. The enterprise server will let subscribers update their desktop calendars from the road, and let office coworkers send wireless updates automatically when they make calendar changes on the PC.

Photo Caller ID Available

KANSAS CITY, MO. — Sprint's launch of a $449 Sanyo-made clamshell phone with color LCD makes possible a new feature for the industry: Photo Caller ID.

The 2-inch (diagonal) 256-color LCD will display pictures of up to 20 people listed in the phone's memory when those people call. Subscribers can download the pictures from a PC. The phone also stores another five pictures that can be used as wallpaper.

The 3.53-ounce dual-band phone (1.9GHz CDMA/800MHz analog) features external Caller ID screen, organizer functions, voice dialing, call screening, and two hours of digital talktime (or 120 digital standby hours) on standard lithium ion battery.

OmniSky Adds Visor Edge

PALO ALTO, CALIF. — OmniSky, the provider of branded wireless e-mail and Internet services to PDA users, announced that its existing CDPD radiomodem and wireless Internet service for the Handspring Visor Platinum and Prism also work in the new Handspring Visor Edge handheld computer.

OmniSky also supports the Palm V and Palm Vx, HP Jornada 540 Series Pocket PC, and Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC.

The OmniSky service lets users wirelessly browse web sites and access their own POP3 e-mail, corporate Microsoft Outlook e-mail from behind the firewall, and AOL e-mail.

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