Unimobile Aims at Wireless Services Worldwide

BANGALORE, INDIA (04/21/2000) - California-based startup Unimobile.com Inc., which offers a two-way messaging service that connects desktop PCs to mobile devices, is hoping to make a splash in the wireless world by offering access to its virtual network to a variety of service providers and portals. The attraction is the opportunity for its collaborators to access a large number of mobile users globally, with a unique new package of wireless services and technology.

The company's messaging service is designed to connect virtually any desktop PC and mobile device around the globe. It is positioning the service -- along with the database technology behind it -- as an application-enabled, virtual network for business-to-consumer portals as well as business-to-business portals.

"The service provider, whether a content or commerce provider or portal, has a single-point plug-in to our network, and using that he can reach consumers," Rajesh T.S. Reddy, founder and chairman of Unimobile.com told IDG News Service.

"We give the service provider more than just a pipe, but also the ability to deploy paradigms such as actionable alerts, where he sends out a notification to a customer, and the customer can respond to it."

The Unimobile service has until now been primarily addressing consumer-to-consumer messaging. Unimobile.com is also targeting the service as an edge solution for large enterprisewide applications.

"If an ERP (enterprise resource planning) application process has to run through a purchase manager for authorization, and if he is away from his desktop, he can be notified and give his authorization from his mobile device, so that he doesn't become a choke in the process," added Reddy.

Unimobile.com has already put into place partnerships with leading portals such as India-based zeenext.com (http://mail.zeenext.com), service providers such as Vodafone AirTouch PLC in the U.K. and Vodacom Group (Pty) Ltd in South Africa, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) such as ProXad (http://www.proxad.net/) in France, and content providers such as Cricinfo (http://www.cricinfo.com/) and Cnet Inc. The nature of the partnerships vary from Unimobile distributing Cnet content, to Cricinfo andProXAD distributing the Unimobile software. The company also plans to partner with vendors of cellular handsets and other mobile devices, which will offer the Unimobile service to their customers with theirown brands.

Unimobile.com runs the Unimobile Virtual Network, a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, monitored service that serves as a backbone to deliver wireless content and other value added services to Unimobile users. The service uses two-way short messaging service (SMS) to deliver text information,including e-mail and Internet content, to mobile device users across a variety of cellular networks in about 110 countries, by interfacing with the Internet gateways of these operators.

"We built a layer on top of these gateways, which can plug into all these various gateways, and deliver messages across the world," explained Reddy. "The service turned into a network that had a combination of all these gateways, and a central rules-based engine that could route these messages, and was smart enough to identify the receiver's carrier by the number."

The service required creating a database of the various formats used by operators, and the technology that converts incoming messages into the format supported by the operator, routes the message, and checks for delivery validation.

"We also have a device formatting engine and an archive of device standards to make sure the message is formatted to the mobile device standard," added Reddy.

The company is adding WAP (wireless access protocol) capability to the service.

The company, says Rajesh, is offering free downloads of the Unimobile desktop software -- which allows desktop and mobile handset device users to send messages worldwide -- since its current objective is customer acquisition. The income model is to share in revenue from e-commerce and charged services offered by service providers and portals on the Unimobile network.

In the long-term, the key asset the company is building is information on consumer behavior in the area of wireless Internet services, which will enable the company to offer new products and applications tailor-made to mobile consumer preferences, according to officials.

The operation first started in Bangalore with a company incorporated in India in 1996 called Gray Cell Applied Technologies Pvt Ltd. The company moved to the U.S. last year, and got venture capital funding, renaming itself to Gray Cell Inc. Gray Cell Inc. was renamed Unimobile.com Inc. in January this year. The operation in India continues as a design and development subsidiary. Unimobile Inc. is going in for a second round of financing, and has already received commitments for $15 million from a consortium led by ComVentures, a Palo Alto, California-based venture capital company. Reddy said he had not yet decided on other new investors, though a telecommunications services company would likely be among them.

Unimobile.com Inc. is in Campbell, California, and can be reached at +1-408-364-1400 or http://www.unimobile.com/.

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