BellSouth, AT&T Jockey for Wireless Data Market

FRAMINGHAM (03/17/2000) - BellSouth Wireless Data dusted off its old paging service last week, renamed it MyBiz Interactive and added features to better serve corporate users. The Woodbridge, N.J.-based company also signed deals with three application service providers as part of a strategy to provide wireless business applications to corporate users.

In a related development that's also targeted at corporate customers, AT&T Wireless Group in Redmond, Wash., introduced what it called the first flat-rate wireless pricing program, offering unlimited wireless IP service for $14.99 per month per user.

Analysts said these moves represent jockeying by well-heeled national carriers to win the wireless soul of corporate America.

Greg Griffin, director of service at Monarch Marking Systems Inc. in Dayton, Ohio, a division of White Plains, N.Y.-based Paxar Corp., said BellSouth's interactive paging service has already allowed his company to create a "virtual office" for its 100 technicians who service Monarch thermal bar-code printers nationwide.

The technicians all carry handheld pagers from Waterloo, Ontario-based Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM). The pagers are equipped with keyboards that allow quick, two-way exchanges between the field and the home office, Griffin said. "The technicians can receive e-mail as well as technical bulletins," said Griffin.

"This also allows them to contact other technicians directly to determine the location of spare parts."

BellSouth signed deals with the following wireless application service providers:

-- Mobile Data Solutions Inc. in Garden Grove, Calif., which is focused on providing service to small utilities and home services companies.

-- Aether Systems Inc. in Owings Mills, Md., which is developing a proof-of-delivery system for the transportation industry.

-- Dynamic Mobile Data Systems Inc. in Somerset, N.J., which is developing an Internet-based dispatch package for the trucking and insurance industries.

AT&T Wireless touted its Cellular Digital Packet Data flat-rate plan as providing greater utility at a lower cost than other cellular carriers.

Brian Ruggiero, first vice president of the electronic business division at Countrywide Credit Industries Inc. in Calabasas, Calif., has used the new AT&T Wireless data service on a trial basis for the past three months.

Having the ability to use a "wireless phone to gain access to mortgage information helps set us apart from our competitors," said Ruggiero.

Ruggiero also pointed out that the flat-rate deal keeps him from worrying about his wireless charges.

How Big Is the Market?

All the big wireless carriers have started to focus on the corporate market, said Andrew Jenkins, an analyst at Barclays Capital in New York. "The big question is: How big is that market?" he said, pointing out that the market could be "anywhere from 2 million to 20 million users with a device like the RIM."

Sam May, an analyst at Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray Inc., said the competition in the wireless field has reached the stage where "every contending Internet portal and service provider must have a legitimate plan in place for wireless connectivity" by the end of the year if they want to be considered serious players.

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More about Aether SystemsAT&TAT&T WirelessBancorp Piper JaffrayBellSouthDynamic Mobile Data SystemsMonarch Marking SystemsResearch In MotionTransportationVirtual OfficeWireless Group

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