PARIS (04/21/2000) - Starting next month, France Télécom SA plans to give customers of its Itineris mobile phone service direct access to the Internet, the company announced yesterday.
The company will introduce new services and portals giving subscribers to the Itineris GSM (global system for mobile communications) service direct access to the Internet from telephones supporting the WAP (wireless application protocol) standard, the company said in a statement yesterday.
Users will be able to create a customized interface to France Télécom's Voila Mobile search engine and Web guide and exchange e-mail messages, according to the statement. In June, the company will expand the service to enable online management of subscription features, it said. Further enhancements are planned from September.
Although users will be charged at standard call rates for time spent accessing the services, there will be no additional charge for access to the information services, the statement said.
So far, France Télécom offers its customers only one WAP-compatible handset, the Nokia 7110, but next month the operator plans to introduce a new model from Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi Electric Corp.'s Trium series. The company said it had ordered 5 million WAP handsets from the manufacturer and plans to have 1 million wireless Internet customers within a year.
The company plans an aggressive expansion of the service. From June, it intends to offer business customers the opportunity to create customized wireless Internet portals for their own use.
And later, the services will be offered to customers of all of France Télécom's European subsidiaries, beginning with Dutchtone in the Netherlands, Mobistar in Belgium and Mobilix in Denmark, the company said. This would give the service a reach of 20 million subscribers.
Although current WAP services are delivered over the circuit-switched network, necessitating delays of up to 30 seconds as the handset dials up a connection, France Télécom has outlined plans to roll out the GPRS (general packet radio service) technology in its wireless network around Paris, providing faster, always-on connections at up to 40K-bps (bits per second) to subscribers using special terminals or handsets. In May, the company will upgrade its GSM network serving the southern part of Paris, reaching out to nearby suburbs in June, it said in a statement. The technology will be deployed nationwide by the end of the year, according to the statement.
France Télécom, based in Paris, can be reached on +33-1-44-44-22-22 or on the Web at http://www.francetelecom.com/.