Eon Corp. of Chantilly, Va., said it plans to offer a low cost wireless two-way messaging service and a host of other consumer-priced wireless services to jump start the lagging interactive video and data services market.

Having completed its research and development program for its wireless network hardware, modem technology and software, the 10-year-old firm is focused on building and deploying an operational IVDS system in virtually every U.S. metropolitan statistical area.

Eon recently announced an agreement with Los Angeles-based World Interactive Network Inc. to form an extensive IVDS network that is expected to reach nearly 80 million pops. Eon holds licenses in 11 MSAs, including New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Houston, and WIN holds about 85 licenses which include Washington D.C., Cleveland and Milwaukee markets. Through agreements with other IVDS licensees and the company’s participation in the upcoming Federal Communications Commission’s IVDS spectrum auctions of rural service areas and defaulted MSAs, Eon expects to create a footprint covering the entire United States.

“We see this as the transformation of the business and the industry,” said Eon President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Turner. “IVDS did not enjoy the early success that was predicted.”

Eon, a firm consisting of about 25 full-time employees, said it is the IVDS pioneer that petitioned the FCC to allocate IVDS spectrum which transmits at 218 MHz and 219 MHz. The commission unanimously approved the spectrum allocation in January 1992.

One service the company is banking on is its Ultra Two-Way Text Messaging, an Internet-compatible service designed to allow Eon subscribers to send and receive e-mail using a number of platforms including personal digital assistants, laptop computers, personal organizers and compact, handheld terminals. Eon currently is in negotiations with equipment manufacturers for the production of the handheld terminals, which will be priced low enough to ensure market entry, Turner said.

The service won’t compete directly with other wireless services, said Turner. It will complement them.

“We’re not in the paging business. There are many people who are paging subscribers who want messaging services,” stressed Turner. “I wouldn’t expect someone to stop using cellular (either) to use our service. It can be used as an adjunct to cellular service.

“Clearly, we see this as a service that will lend itself to retail distribution through non-traditional channels,” he said. “It will be directly marketed to the consumer and sold or marketed with other products and with PCS [personal communications services], paging and cellular as an incremental message utility.”

By pricing the service around $20 per month, Eon also has its sights on the largely undeveloped messaging market consisting of families, children, college students and price-sensitive cellular users.

“There is a whole host of people who don’t use any kind of wireless service,” Turner said. Based on market research conducted by Eon in conjunction with Economic and Management Consultants International Inc., Turner predicts the popularity of the service among non-wireless users will correspond to the popularity of the Internet, which adds about 5 million subscribers per month.

Eon’s network structure will allow it to offer two-way services at a cheap price, the company said. Termed Milliwatt Strategy, the structure uses remote receivers to relay information from consumer units to base stations, allowing consumer units to transmit at a fraction of the maximum power level allowed by the FCC-less than 100 milliWatts. Eon said reducing the amount of power transmitted by consumer units reduces the cost of the radio frequency modem and the local RF equipment at each remote receiver.

Because Eon’s digital technology contains open architecture and protocols, the Eon modem can be incorporated into a broad variety of devices capable of emitting digital signals, the company said. As a result, the technology can be used to provide a variety of wireless data services within the network coverage area. Eon already plans to offer other services such as a wireless interactive messaging system that allows subscribers to send and receive voice messages and a pen-based interface that enables users to send and receive handwritten messages digitally. The company is working on agreements with businesses to provide remote vending applications and automated meter reading.

Eon also is poised to commence a national buildout in Mexico, beginning with the expansion of its existing network in Monterey.

“The only limitation [of this business] is how creative we can be to find applications and uses of fixed mobile and data services of IVDS,” said Turner. “This is a good market here.”


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