L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co. announced what it claims is the world's first cordless Internet radio on the eve of the CeBIT trade show here Wednesday. At the same time, it announced two new GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) mobile phone handsets and some new services and equipment for network operators, with a theme of bringing multimedia services to the mobile phone industry.
The company also unveiled its first foray into the digital imaging market: The CommuniCam is a camera weighing just 25 grams, which can be plugged into the base of a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) handset to upload digital pictures to an online album such as that at the Ericsson Mobile Internet portal. The camera takes pictures 352 by 288 pixels in size, with a color depth of 24 bits. The camera can be used with any Ericsson phone with a modem, and the average transmission time required to transmit a picture is around one minute, the company said. The company plans to launch the camera commercially before the end of June.
Even though its first GPRS handset, the R520, is still not in the shops, Ericsson announced two new GPRS phones here -- both featuring Bluetooth personal area networking, and one with a color screen and support for the Multimedia Messaging Service standard.
The T39 operates in the two frequency bands used for GSM in Europe and Asia, 900MHz and 1.8GHz, and also at 1.9GHz, the band used for GSM in the Americas. The phone will be available in all GSM markets in the second quarter of this year, Ericsson said. While the phone will include a Bluetooth low-power radio connection to link it to PCs or PDAs, Ericsson will also offer users the opportunity to do away with the second device altogether, packing PIM (personal information management) software including a contacts database, calendar and task organizer into the phone itself.
Ericsson's other GPRS announcement concerned the T68, which is slated for commercial launch before the end of 2001, according to a statement. Like the R520 and the T39, the T68 will feature a Bluetooth low-power wireless link, but adds an 8-line, 256-color screen and a pocket-friendly integrated antenna. More information about the phone's features will be released later this year.
The H100 cordless Internet radio has no connection with its new mobile phones -- although perhaps it could, as it too uses the Bluetooth short-range wireless networking technology. It consists of two components: a base station that plugs into a broadband Internet connection such as a cable modem or ADSL modem, and a battery-powered mobile terminal. Instead of tuning in to songs from the relatively limited number of FM radio stations found in most cities, the H100 will enable users to tune in to thousands of Internet radio stations without the need to stay by their computer. The U.S. will be the first market to see the H100, "toward the end of this year," Ericsson said, with models due to arrive in Europe shortly after.
Blurring the boundaries between mobile phones and broadband entertainment appliances still further, the company also outlined its Mobile@Home concept, a home base station to link Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones to broadband Internet connections at up to 700K bps (bits per second) and provide a seamless hand-over between the wide area and local area networks. The idea, according to Ericsson, is to combine the convenience of mobility with the cost-effectiveness of fixed-line broadband access.
Previous attempts to make this connection -- using narrowband network technologies -- have failed. Ericsson proposed a cordless phone for the home based on GSM technology, but agreement was never reached on standards for how the home base station would share radio spectrum with public GSM networks. A similar project, to allow users to roam between public GSM networks and a DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) home base station using a single handset reached the market, but failed to take off as consumers found the dual-standard phones too bulky.
[Editors: Images to accompany this story can be found in the IDG News Service Image Bank.]