Sprint Pushes into Corporate Wireless

Sprint PCS Group rolled out a suite of wireless services and products for corporate users, including access to Microsoft's Exchange and Lotus Development's Notes e-mail, corporate travel sites and sales force automation tools.

Analysts viewed the new service as a logical move to provide corporate customers with a one-stop-shopping approach to enterprise wireless Web offerings, while a spokesman for rival AT&T Wireless Group called it a "ho-hum"announcement of services widely available from other carriers.

"We have been serving the enterprise market since 1996 and have hundreds of corporate customers and have been providing them with access to the same kind of information,"said AT&T Wireless spokesman Ken Woo. As examples, he cited AT&T's agreements with Lotus Development Corp. and Sabre Inc. to provide wireless Web offerings to corporate customers through its PocketNet service.

The new Sprint PCS services, called Wireless Web for Business, include wireless links to corporate travel departments provided by Sabre in Fort Worth, Texas; sales and field service applications from Siebel Systems Inc. in San Mateo, Calif.; and corporate directory services from PeopleSoft Inc. in Pleasanton, Calif.

Kansas City, Mo.-based Sprint PCS plans to offer the service to business customers who have already signed up for a monthly $49.95 bulk-rate plan. They can choose unlimited access to the wireless Web service for an additional $40 or, for an extra $10 per month, they can allocate airtime between voice and data services, according to Sprint.

Sprint PCS will also offer enterprise customers the ability to establish wireless virtual private networks (VPN). Sprint spokeswoman Kami Jowers declined to disclose pricing details but indicated that VPN service would carry a price tag in the tens of thousands of dollars per month.

Sprint also introduced two wireless modems that company officials said would provide faster access - 56K bit/sec. - than the current wireless or wired dial-up services offered by Sprint.

But Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group Inc., said Sprint PCS "went overboard on the hype" about the 56K claim. Dulaney said the company bases the claim on performance enhancement derived from the use of a compression technology from BlueKite.Com in San Francisco to improve the throughput of data traffic over the Sprint PCS network's 14.4K bit/sec. wireless links.

Ron LeMay, interim president of Sprint PCS, said the new package of business wireless Web services is a response to growth in corporate demand for wireless access to information that Sprint has seen since the company introduced wireless Web service a year ago. LeMay said that in the past year, wireless national business accounts have grown 285%.

Tim Scannell, a Quincy, Mass.-based analyst at Mobile Insights Inc., said he viewed the new Sprint PCS business wireless Web offerings as "basically a partnership for corporate customers who don't want to go to multiple sources for services. . . . This will make wireless less confusing for business customers."

But another Sprint rival, Verizon Wireless, also played down the new offerings.

A spokeswoman for Bedminster, N.J.-based Verizon said she is prohibited from commenting about plans to serve the corporate market because of a pending initial public offering. But, she added, "in the next few months, you will see Sprint is not unique in this marketplace."

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