By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
In many ways, Verizon's commercial launch of CDMA 1X service mirrors the conservative 2.5G GPRS launches by AT&T, Cingular and VoiceStream.
Like Verizon, AT&T and Cingular are rolling out their packet-data services region-by-region and are offering microbrowser-equipped phones that also double as wireless modems. Like Verizon, neither carrier yet offers new types of value-added data services such as video downloads to handsets, videophones, or phones with built-in digital still cameras.
"Cameras, video, audio are all features that we hope to offer in the future, but none of the current phones have that capability," said an AT&T spokeswoman.
Likewise, when VoiceStream launched nationally last November, its services are limited to microbrowser-equipped phones that also double as wireless modems. In one point of differentiation, however, VoiceStream also lets all GPRS subscribers use their phones' microbrowsers to view e-mail, calendar, and contact list information residing on their networked enterprise computer. The service supports Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes, a spokeswoman said.
Cingular offers only e-mail access, and only in one market, Seattle, but the carrier plans other GSM markets soon. AT&T said it plans an e-mail redirector solution for handsets available in the second quarter to provide access to corporate e-mail.
Distribution Strategies: Carriers also differ in their distribution strategies. Verizon is limiting phone sales initially through its direct channels, while the GPRS launches by VoiceStream, AT&T, and Cingular include simultaneous availability to direct and indirect channels, the carriers said.
Another difference is initial real-world throughput speed. Verizon cites average 40-60kbps throughputs, while VoiceStream cites an average 40kbps.
AT&T claims its rates are comparable to landline dial-up Internet access, and Cingular cites average 30-40kbps throughput.
Analysts, however, contend that the GPRS carriers are delivering only 10-30kbps.
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