Vodafone, IBM to provide office suite over GSM

Vodafone U.K. Ltd. is working with IBM to offer access to Lotus Notes on cell phones using WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), the companies announced Monday.

Lotus Notes e-mail, calendar and directory access is to be added to Vodafone's OfficeLive mobile application range, available over digital GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) and GPRS (General Packer Radio Service). Corporate customers will be able to give employees access to their in-house Lotus Notes server over the WAP service, the companies said in a statement.

The service will be available at the end of November and two customers -- CSC Computer Sciences Ltd. and Abbott Laboratories Ltd. -- have been testing the service for two weeks, said Janine Young, Vodafone's senior press officer. It is too soon to have any feedback on how the trial is going, she said.

The offer includes a Lotus Domino Everyplace Access Server, which is linked to the customer's current Domino server, and will be offered as a managed service from Vodafone. This includes a 24-hour, 7-day support service. Statistics including call duration, access and URL (Uniform Resource Locator) page views will be available for every user, according to the statement.

Vodafone's recommended retail price ranges from 9 pounds (US$13) to 11 pounds per month, per user, depending on the number of users, the companies said. There will also be a one-time installation charge of about 2,500 pounds, depending on the client's IT setup and how much work is involved for the systems integrator, Young said.

The new service will initially only be marketed in the U.K., but Vodafone does plan to roll it out to other markets in the future, Young said. "It is being introduced here first because the U.K. is a more mature market than other European countries," she said.

Vodafone is the first carrier to take up this service internationally, but IBM is "very positively talking to other operators who are interested in rolling out the service," said an IBM spokeswoman.

Interest in the service is "not just in the U.K. but across Europe and worldwide," she said. However, the spokeswoman was unable to give names of any potential customers at this stage, nor dates when they might be announced.

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