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MOBILE DATA CARRIERS TRY TO ACCESS THE INTERNET

WASHINGTON-The mobile data industry still is in its infancy, according to manufacturers, service providers and users, but the next few years promise a mini boom in applications easy for almost anyone to use. A study recently released by Booz Allen Hamilton predicts 17.4 million wireless data users by 2005, a long way to go from where the industry is today.

Speaking at the Comnet conference and exhibition here last week, a show that showcases new innovations in networking, Robert Hirsh, director of wireless data distribution for Bell Atlantic Nynex Mobile, touted the growing success of BANM’s Cellular Digital Packet Data product, which allows access to dispatch centers, databases, intranets and the Internet. BANM’s newest CDPD product, Cellscape, combines data gathering and voice, and it can be customized for individual companies and users. Hirsh referred to it as a “superphone device” that allows subscribers to both talk and browse the Internet .

Cellscape service offerings include airline information, news services, customer directories, and yellow and white pages. Hirsh said BANM’s first Cellscape customer, Walsh Messenger Service in Long Island, N.Y., used to use pagers and payphones to dispatch couriers in the New York metro area, and packages never could be tracked accurately. “Now that they are using the smartphones, expenses have been reduced and the company was able to use its existing dispatch software with the product.”

Motorola Inc.’s Ardis data-only service, which was designed years ago in collaboration with IBM Corp. for its service personnel, now has 65,000 customers nationwide, with another 25,000 under contract, said Mike McGee, vice president of marketing. The service, which had been catering almost exclusively to IBM and Motorola field personnel, now plans to target other field service people; the long-haul transportation industry; security providers; corporate application extensions; and mobile-office users.

Ardis software can accommodate some 30 wireless devices, including the new RIM two-way pager.

The service’s AirMail application provides wireless access to a customer’s Internet and e-mail provider by acting as a gateway.

Getting rid of a separate wireless e-mail address is one of the goals of RAM Mobile Data USA L.P., which is 50-percent owned by BellSouth Corp. and claims to service half of the Fortune 500 companies. Using the same RIM device as Ardis, Ram also wants to branch out to the transportation industry and to the utilities, which are expected to make their move into expanded communications offerings following possible deregulation this year.

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