Cable & Wireless Optus expects its GSM network to be GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) capable in the first half of 2000, allowing the carrier to offer enhanced mobile data services.
Commercial trials of C&W Optus' multimillion-dollar GPRS solution from Nortel Networks will begin in early 2000.
"The wireless market has really exploded in a relatively short time. Now with the rapid adoption of hand-held computing devices we see a huge demand for mobile data services emerging," said Kier Preedy, director, Mobile Network at C&W Optus.
General Packet Radio Service allows carriers to unify GSM and IP (Internet Protocol) technologies.
"IP is our vision of the future. In the next five years we anticipate all traffic running over IP networks. The driving force behind this is twofold: packet networks create new economic models as well as new service environments that just don't exist today," Preedy continued.
"GPRS also represents the move from circuit to packet based networks in the mobile arena. This is fundamental to the company's core strategy and will have a huge impact on the kind of services we can offer our customers."
"The GPRS network will enable us to add a whole host of features to our existing information services, which will be location-based. For example the mobile network will identify exactly where the caller is phoning from, and could provide Web-generated details on the particular restaurants, hotels and entertainment [the area] has to offer," Preedy said.
And GPRS allows customers to remain connected to the internet for an unlimited time without using dedicated network resources, giving carriers the option to move away from a connection based pricing model.
C&W Optus expects the corporate sector to lead demand for the new services.
"Our short-term plans will be to develop services for those corporate road warriors who carry laptops with them on business trips," Preedy said.
According to Peter MacKinnon, vice president, wireless solutions, Asia South Pacific, Nortel Networks, GPRS offers carriers a stepping stone on the journey from wireless application protocol (WAP) to third-generation (3G) networks.
MacKinnon said that GPRS will offer faster, cheaper data delivery to mobile devices, compared to WAP.
"WAP allows you to introduce a lot of new services, but you do it at speeds that are today's speeds - 9.6 kilobits per second. When you get to GPRS its 115 kilobits per second," he said.
And in terms of costs per megabit of traffic over mobile networks, packet technology results in significant savings compared with WAP.
GPRS will enable carriers to create a synergy between wireless and wireline services, MacKinnon said.
"The way the customer accesses their favourite Web pages (from wireless and wireline devices) will start to be the same," he said.
"Today there's not a lot of synergy between wireline and wireless but [GPRS] allows [carriers] to start creating that link and that synergy and that loyalty."