Sprint Debuts Wireless Web for Business Service

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

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

The new services, packaged under the name Sprint PCS Wireless Web for Business, includes wireless links to corporate travel departments provided by Sabre Holdings Inc. 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 new service to business customers that have already signed up for a monthly $49.95 bulk rate plan. They can choose between unlimited access to the wireless Web service for an extra $40, or for an extra $10 per month, they can allocate airtime between voice and data services, according to a release from the company.

Sprint PCS said it will also offer enterprise customers the ability to establish wireless virtual private networks (VPN), adding that pricing would depend on the size of the customer base. Sprint spokeswoman Kami Jowers declined to disclose exact 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 wireless access than the 56K bit/sec. that users can obtain with wired dial-up service. Current Sprint PCS modems provide connectivity at 14.4K bit/sec. They include a "phone on a card" from Sierra Wireless Inc. in Vancouver, British Columbia, which plugs directly into a laptop modem slot, and a $29.99 kit from Socket Communications Inc. in Newark, Calif., used to connect a phone to a laptop.

Ron LeMay, interim president of Sprint PCS, said the new package of business wireless Web services is a response to corporate demand for wireless access to information that Sprint has seen since the company introduced wireless Web service for all users a year ago. In a statement, LeMay said that in the past year, wireless national business accounts have grown 285%. That's a "significant achievement in the enterprise arena," he said.

Sprint spokesmen wouldn't provide names of major enterprise customers.

Tim Scannell, a Quincy, Mass.-based analyst at Mobile Insights Inc., said he views the new Sprint PCS business wireless Web offerings as representing "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 Ken Woo, a spokesman for Redmond, Wash.-based AT&T Wireless, played down the new Sprint business wireless services.

"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," he said.

For example, he said, AT&T Wireless already has agreements with both Lotus Development Corp. and Sabre to provide wireless Web services to corporate customers on its PocketNet service.

A spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless in Bedminster, N.H., said that although she is precluded from commenting about the company's plans to serve the corporate market due to a pending initial public offering, she could say "that in the next few months you will see Sprint is not unique in this marketplace."

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