New Paging System To Debut Next Year

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Nexus, an Israeli defense contractor, has developed a low-cost two-way paging service that carrier American Paging expects to begin offering in the third quarter of 1996.

Nexus, which demonstrated the system at the recent PCIA show, is squarely targeting the family market, mostly because it expects the price to be about two-thirds less than SkyTel's newly launched two-way N-PCS service.

"We envision a low flat rate for unlimited messages," said Nexus president Amnon Shefi. Subscriber units, called TAG (Two-Way Acknowledgement Group) pagers, will also be more affordable, about $200 compared to SkyTel's $399, Shefi added.

SkyTel's 2-Way service starts at $24.95 per month for three-state coverage and goes to more than $74.95 per month for nationwide service.

Unlike SkyTel's system, the Nexus system doesn't operate in the new N-PCS band -- it uses a carrier's existing paging infrastructure to send messages to a two-way pager, and the pager uses 2MHz in the unlicensed 902-928MHz band (also used by cordless phones and wireless speakers) to transmit replies.

The service will be affordable because carriers don't have to bid for 900MHz spectrum, don't have to modify existing infra-structure to send messages to a pager, and don't have to add as many receivers to their network compared to N-PCS carriers using Motorola's ReFlex technology, said Stuart Shwiff, manager of business development for Minneapolis-based American Paging, whose network operates in 14 states.

A second reason for targeting the family market, Shefi said, is the service's flexible two-way messaging capabilities. In addition to letting subscribers respond to a message, Nexus's Nexnet network lets subscribers initiate messages chosen from among 256 messages programmed into the unit.

Subscribers send responses and initiated messages to other subscriber units, public and private e-mail networks, or to a recipient's phone. The message is converted into speech before it's delivered to a phone.

In contrast, SkyTel subscribers can send responses to other subscribers, e-mail networks, and anyone's phone. But the subscribers are limited to sending initiated messages only to other subscriber units, and then only if they compose a message on a Hewlett-Packard palmtop computer linked to a two-way pager.

In the future, SkyTel said, it plans to expand its two-way messaging capabilities.

To bring its service to market, Nexus joined American Paging in forming American Messaging Services, which will also market the technology to other paging carriers. At an undetermined date, AMS also plans to market an automatic vehicle tracking system incorporating the technology.

Although high-power ship-based military radar, federal two-way radios, amateur radios, and automatic vehicle-location systems share the 902-928MHz band with the Nexnet network, they won't interfere with the service, Shwiff said, because it uses frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology that is "unjammable."

American Paging doesn't "anticipate" that its 1/2-watt pagers will interfere with the use of 900MHz cordless phones and wireless speakers because the service "follows all the guidelines established by Part 15," Shwiff added.

Nor will the service interfere with automatic vehicle location services assigned to the band, because those services operate at either end of the band while the two-way pagers transmit in the middle of the band, he noted.

American Paging plans distribution through its existing distribution channels, including retailers through reseller Positive Communications.

So far, Samsung has agreed to manufacture the pagers, but AMS is looking for additional suppliers. The Samsung version is 3.9x2.6x0.9 inches and weighs 5.3 ounces. Two AA batteries will provide four to six weeks of life with average use, said Nexus, which provides the infrastructure equipment.◊[headline]Car Service To Use Two-Way Network Automotive OEM supplier Prince of Holland, Mich. plans a fourth-quarter announcement of an automotive safety, security and convenience service using SkyTel's new two-way Narrowband-PCS paging network.

The service would be introduced to the aftermarket in mid-1996 and would take the form of a car "replacement part," said marketing communications manager Christine Arnold, who declined to elaborate. The company is mulling distribution plans but hasn't ruled out consumer electronics retailers and car dealers.

An OEM product, the replacement part and service would be available in the 1998 model year, Arnold said.

SkyTel president Jai Bhagat said the service would incorporate Global Positioning System (GPS) position-location technology. Prince sales and marketing VP Michael Suman said service possibilities include summoning emergency services, recovering stolen vehicles, and triggering various car functions from a remote location.

Last month, SkyTel introduced two-way paging to 1,300 cities in 50 metropolitan areas starting at $24.95 per month plus $15 per month to lease a pager or $399 to buy it.

The service, called SkyTel 2-Way, will be introduced in 300 metro areas by the end of the year, the company said. It is the first service in the U.S. to use N-PCS (Narrowband-Personal Communications Service) spectrum. Other services are expected to follow in 12 to 18 months.

In related announcements:

* MCI said it would begin reselling SkyTel's two-way service in October under its own brand name direct to businesses.

* Microsoft, an investor in SkyTel parent Mtel, said it has linked its online Microsoft Network (MSN) to SkyTel's network, enabling MSN subscribers to send messages directly to SkyTel subscribers and have replies deposited in their MSN in-box.

MSN is the only online network with a direct gateway to the 2-Way network. Other online networks are connected indirectly via the Internet.

Microsoft also announced 2-Way messaging software for its Windows 95 operating system.

SkyTel is focusing its initial advertising TV and print ads on upgrading current subscribers to two-way service by emphasizing three advantages over existing one-way services: a subscriber's ability to send a reply wirelessly; message-delivery confirmation; and store-and-forward messaging to guarantee delivery if a pager is off or out of range.

"We project that up to 25% of the subscribers in the first 90 to 120 days will be current one-way alpha users," said Bernard Puckett, president of SkyTel parent Mtel. "But two-way service will dramatically expand the market."

SkyTel has priced the service to make it "attractive for heavy nationwide alpha users to switch" to 2-Way service from the one-way services offered by SkyTel and other carriers, Puckett said. Nationwide 2-Way service starts at $74.95 per month, including 200 messages.

SkyTel 2-Way prices go down to $24.95 per month for 100 messages for a wide-area service option, which covers up to three states. Messages received from outside the area would cost 95¢ each.

In comparison, SkyTel's one-way alphanumeric service begins at $18 per month for a single metro area and starts at $64 for nationwide service for 2,000 characters per month.

As reported previously (TWICE, September 18, page 42), SkyTel will market the service through its direct-sales channels. Sony will begin to introduce the service at retail beginning in October or November, a SkyTel spokeswoman said.

SkyTel said its service offers the following advantages over CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data), Ram and Ardis: better in-building coverage, immediate response capability, longer battery life, a smaller device, lower usage costs, and easier access by non-subscribers to the network.

The RAM and Ardis networks, the company said, are intended more for file transfers from a linked portable computer rather than for short messaging. The two networks are used mainly for vertical business applications, SkyTel added.

SkyTel also revealed that in addition to choosing from 16 preprogrammed responses, subscribers who want to respond to a message can choose from custom responses transmitted by callers who use SkyTel Access messaging software loaded on a PC.

The company said that it would eventually provide more gateways to its network. Right now, subscribers can receive and respond to messages via any online service, corporate e-mail, or individual PC linked to the Internet.

Eventually, SkyTel plans direct gateways to AT&T's PersonaLink and EasyLink services and to corporate e-mail networks that use cc:mail and Microsoft Mail software, and perhaps to the Ram and Ardis networks.

Subscribers can initiate messages to another two-way subscriber via a Hewlett-Packard palmtop computer linked to a two-way pager. But in the future, SkyTel said it would enable subscribers to initiate messages to non-subscribers and to send text to a fax machine.--Joseph Palenchar

PC Software Expands Data Paging Limits

Two companies have developed PC-application software that expands the data-carrying limits of existing one-way paging networks.

Data Critical of Redmond, Wash. plans retail, VAR and carrier distribution for its Critical Link product, which enables a portable computing device to retrieve lengthy messages through a standard Motorola Advisor alpha pager.

The $199 package includes an adapter and cable connector plus software that lets PC users compose and transmit messages of up to 6,000 characters over existing one-way paging networks.

Although existing one-way networks are configured to relay messages of up to only 500 characters, the Data Critical software gets around the limitation by breaking up messages into packets that are tied together by software loaded onto a portable computing device. Theoretically, the software could transmit messages of more than 6,000 characters, but the Advisor pager's memory tops out at 6,000 characters.

Ex Machina of New York City is targeting carriers and computer retailers with its Notify! Mobile software package.

The $199-suggested-retail software enables users of Windows and Win 95 computers to transmit binary and text files in packets to a mobile user's PC Card paging transceiver.

The amount of transmitted information is limited only by the memory of a PC Card, usually up to 130 kilobytes, or about 130,000 ASCII characters, the company said.

Companion software on a portable computing device ties the packets together and filters incoming information to determine in which directories the incoming information will be stored. The software can also be used with N-PCS two-way paging receivers to receive as well as transmit information wirelessly, the company said.

The first two-way TAG Pager, manufactured by Samsung, is expected to retail for less than $200 when it ships next year.

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