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INTERACTIVE VIDEO LICENSEE TURNS TO WIRELESS MESSAGING SERVICE

WASHINGTON-Following on the heels of a recent Federal Communications Commission decision to allow interactive video and data services licensees to provide mobile services, Chantilly, Va.-based Eon Corp. announced its test of a two-way messaging/monitoring service catering to vending-machine owners in Monterrey, Mexico.

Prior to the FCC’s May 16 decision, IVDS operators were not allowed to use their channels for any purpose other than point-to-multipoint, multipoint-to-point or short-distance fixed communications. The new flexibility gives IVDS licensees a way to use their channels to provide mobile data and information services to generate revenues while they continue to develop interactive video applications.

“The FCC responded favorably to our petition of two years ago,” said Hal Turner, Eon’s new president and chief executive officer. “Finally, the IVDS industry is getting a boost. Now we can compete with narrowband carriers and other wireless providers. We repositioned Eon, which had been characterized as a research-and-development group for interactive TV, although that market hasn’t evolved. Messaging now has been added, allowing us to offer two-way paging on an ancillary basis to subscribers.”

Eon plans to use its IVDS network that, in partnership with World Interactive Network Inc., is the largest IVDS network in the country-touching 80 million pops-to provide automated meter reading, home security, load management and utilities management. Its Mexican test, which encompasses more than 100 vending machines, is fine-tuning the monitoring system that will allow owner/stockers to track the temperature and inventory of individual machines that are hooked up to Eon’s microcell and cellular network. U.S. counterparts could be in line for the technology if and when financial and partnership agreements can be forged.

The company’s new U.S. target market, however, will be the mobile computer user who relies heavily on the Internet and on electronic mail. Eon currently is developing the tranceiver unit that will attach to a laptop computer or a personal digital assistant to facilitate connection to Eon’s private packet-switched system. Alpha tests are taking place in Eon’s home office, and beta-testing will begin late this year in non-urban markets.

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