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Devices, Networks Converge At Wireless 2002

Orlando, Fla. – Not only did PDAs and wireless phones converge at Wireless 2002, but so did wireless 802.11b local area networks (LANs) and wireless wide area networks (WANs).

At the show, multiple carriers outlined plans to launch new PDA phones, including the first Pocket PC 2002-based models, Handspring’s first CDMA-network Treo PDA-phone, and the first smartphone based on Microsoft’s Stinger OS.

Meantime, VoiceStream CEO John Stanton outlined plans for wireless handoffs between VoiceStream’s EDGE and GPRS WANs and its 802.11b networks, which operate in public ‘hot spots’ such as airports and hotels. Also underscoring the LAN/WAN convergence were announcements by Nokia and GTran to offer hybrid PC Cards incorporating 802.11b and wireless WAN radiomodems.

Among PDA phone developments, Verizon announced plans to become the first carrier to offer a Pocket PC 2002 PDA phone in the second quarter. It operates on CDMA 2G and 1x networks and will be available through the carrier’s direct and indirect channels at around $800. The device, Audiovox’s Thera, is available to Verizon exclusively through July 1. The carrier will concentrate distribution in its 1x markets and will expand distribution as more 1x markets are turned on.

In other PDA phone announcements:

  • Sprint PCS said its midyear nationwide CDMA 1x launch will feature multiple new 1x phones, including Audiovox’s Thera PDA-phone. Sprint will offer a CDMA 1x version of the Handspring Treo PDA-phone, simultaneously with the Thera or soon after. Treo is currently available for GSM/GPRS networks.
  • VoiceStream said it will offer a PocketPC 2002 PDA-phone for its GSM/GPRS network sometime in the summer. Unlike the Thera, this model will add Microsoft Pocket PC Phone Edition software, said Microsoft wireless marketing director Scott Gode. The software lets users initiate a voice call, SMS message, or e-mail from Outlook’s contact list. The software also features tighter integration with other Microsoft applications. For example, when a call comes in, music playing through Windows Media Audio software will automatically pause. The phone will be available to consumers sometime in the summer, Gode said. The name of the manufacturer was unavailable.
  • Cingular announced an exclusive agreement to offer Sendo’s long-awaited GSM/GPRS smartphone, based on Microsoft’s Stinger OS, in three to four months. Pricing wasn’t available. Cingular also said it will offer the Handpsring Treo PDA phone in the next few months, but it didn’t say whether it would offer the keyboard-equipped version, touchscreen version, or both.
  • In LAN/WAN convergence developments, VoiceStream’s Stanton didn’t say when it would offer handoffs from its 11Mbps 802.11b networks to its EDGE and GPRS networks, but he called 802.11b ‘an integral part of our network.’ He likened 11Mbps 802.11b networks to ‘3G on training wheels,’ whetting consumer’s appetites for future high-speed 3G WANs, such as 477kbps EDGE and 2.4Mbps W-CDMA.
  • Nokia and GTran unveiled the first PC Card radiomodems that operate on wireless WANs and 802.11b LANs, but the cards don’t hand off an Internet connection from one network to the other. Nokia demonstrated a model combining 802.11b, packet-data GPRS, and circuit-switched GSM technology. It’s due in the third quarter at around $300 and is likely targeted to VoicesStream.

GTran demonstrated a card operating on 802.11b and CDMA 1x networks. It will ship sometime this year.

In other developments at the show:

  • Sony Ericsson showed a phone with integrated digital still camera ( see March 11, p.1), as did Panasonic. Samsung showed a phone that accepts an add-on still camera, and Sony Ericsson showed four such models.
  • Bluetooth proliferated, with Nokia unveiling its first phone with integrated Bluetooth and announcing plans for a midyear launch of a Bluetooth headset at $200-$300. Jabra unveiled its first Bluetooth headset at a suggested $99 without adapter module and $179 with module, which plugs into most phones, excluding Nokia’s, through the 2.5mm headset jack. Skypower introduced a sub-$100 Bluetooth headset due in May.
  • The first phones with four-color screens from Sony Ericsson, Nokia, LG, Samsung and Panasonic.
  • And a greater selection of phones incorporating Java-based J2ME or the competing BREW technology, both of which allow for wireless downloads of small applications, such as games, currency calculators and expense tracking. Models were shown by Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Nokia and Siemens.

In a related development, Verizon said it became the first U.S. carrier to offer downloadable BREW applications. The service is available in San Diego for two BREW-equipped phones, a $399 Sharp-made Z800 color-screen phone and a $149 Kyocera phone, both of which are 2G models. Some of the apps use airtime. A nationwide launch will follow around May. The phones are available through direct channels and RadioShack, but more indirect retailers are planned for the national launch.

In another major development, suppliers demonstrated CDMA 1x EV-D0 infrastructure and PC card radiomodems to further accelerate data rates to 2.4Mbps in mobile environments.

  • Lucent and LG InfoComm demonstrated working CDMA 1x EV-DO base stations in conjunction with multiple radiomodems that included PC Card models, embedded modules for laptops, and an add-on Multiport module that attaches to the back of Compaq laptop screens.
  • LG demonstrated a 1x EV-DO phone and base station, both intended for the Korean market. U.S.-market base stations ship in July or August to a small data-only carrier, Seattle-based Monet, which offers 1x data-only service via PC Card radiomodems.
  • For its part, Lucent said its base stations would be generally available to carriers in June and are already being used in trials by Verizon in Washington, D.C.
  • Working EV-DO radiomodem prototypes were demonstrated. They included a Sierra Wireless PC Card in use in the Verizon trial. AirPrime demonstrated a working prototype of an EV-DO embedded module intended for laptops. The module and an AirPrime PC Card are part of the Verizon trial. GTran didn’t show its EV-DO PC Card, which is available in Korea. Compaq’s EV-DO Multi Port was also demonstrated and will enter into market trials soon, a spokesman said.
  • In 2G, CDMA 1x, and GPRS handsets, here’s what various suppliers showed:

LG InfoComm: The company’s first color-screen phone, the clamshell 5350, is a dual-band CDMA 1x model with MMS, J2ME, gpsOne, and WAP 2.0 browser with instant messaging capability. It lacks MMS. It’s targeted to ship in July to Sprint with upper tier pricing roughly around $199.

Nokia: Eight new phones include Nokia’s first U.S. color screen phone (the keyboard-equipped 7210 smart phone), first CDMA 1x phones, first phones with J2ME and xHTML microbrowsers, and first hybrid GSM/TDMA phone.

The CDMA 1x phones are the trimode 6385 and trimode 3585, the latter with J2ME and interchangeable front covers with graphics that light up. The 6385 ships early in the second quarter, the 3585 in the second half.

The Bluetooth phone is the triband GSM/GPRS 6310i with J2ME, likely shipping in the second quarter.

The 800/1900MHz GSM/GPRS 3590 features J2ME, xHTML browser, receive-only MMS, and polyphonic ring tones. It ships in the third quarter.

The 800/1900MHz GSM/GPRS 6590 features xHTML, no J2ME or polyphonic ring tones, receive-only MMS, and built-in FM radio. A ship date was unavailable.

The 7210 Communicator PDA-phone, a triband GSM model without GPRS, features Symbian OS, color screen, J2ME, two-way MMS and polyphionic ring tones. It ships in the second half.

The 1.9GHz 8270 will be the company’s smallest CDMA 2G phone and weighs only 3.07 ounces. It ships early in the second quarter with microbrowser.

The 6340 GSM/TDMA phone, due in the first half, lacks GPRS. It operates on GSM 1900MHz, TDMA 800/1900MHz, and analog 800MHz networks.

Panasonic: A mockup GSM/GPRS phone featured built-in digital camera, color screen, MMS, and downloadable applications. AT&T is testing the phone, dubbed the GU87. Shipments to carriers are targeted to begin in December.

Siemens: Two new phones include the company’s first with J2ME. That’s the 1.9GHz GSM/GPRS M46. The second phone will be the first hybrid GSM/TDMA phone available in the U.S. when it becomes available next month through AT&T Wireless at $199.

Samsung: Nine new phones include the company’s first two with color screens and J2ME. One of them will accept an optional add-on digital still camera. Both also feature MMS. They’re intended to be available for Sprint’s CDMA 1x launch in midyear and are expected to retail for around $200 and $300. Samsung also unveiled its first BREW-equipped phone, a 1x model targeted to Verizon.