VIEWPOINT

To those Europeans who scoff at Americans and their (too) many wireless standards choices, we now have a response: FLEX.

AT&T Wireless Services Inc. has decided not to deploy personal Air Communications Technology two-way paging technology in its markets. For all intents and purposes, this leaves no doubt that Motorola and its FLEX family of products will wear the protocol crown in the advanced paging world. (Nexus Telecommunications Systems Ltd. also has developed a piggy back two-way paging service, but it has not shared the same success as Motorola. RAM USA Mobile Data L.P.’s network and Ardis service also could compete with FLEX, but they aren’t paging protocols.)

AT&T’s new chairman, John Walter, pulled the plug on using pACT technology, saying the company doesn’t have the capital to be everywhere.

AT&T already has decided to stray from the rest of the U.S. crowd in choosing to deploy TDMA service in its markets nationwide. AT&T is large enough that its choice of TDMA ensures there will be a market for TDMA products and services. Smaller PCS and cellular players may choose a TDMA standards-based network so their networks can interconnect with AT&T’s.

But in the messaging arena, AT&T’s move away from pACT signals the end of any chance for the protocol to be widely deployed. AT&T was the only carrier that publicly supported pACT. AT&T says it still supports pACT technology and will complete work on the pACT standard.

Why bother?

NEC, Ericsson and other paging manufacturers only pursued the pACT protocol because AT&T said it would use it. Smaller paging carriers are going to have a difficult-if not insurmountable-challenge in trying to convince paging manufacturers that it will be worth their efforts to manufacture a pACT product.

An irony in this is the phone call I received the day we heard about pACT’s demise from someone interested in the technology. The man said he was getting tired of pouring all his money into Motorola’s FLEX products and wanted to see what else was out there.

The real losers here are the manufacturers that invested time and money into pACT’s development. A technology-no matter how good it is-still needs a strong name behind it to bring it to fruition.

And to no one’s surprise, Motorola continues to dominate the paging market.

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