Wireless Internet and Information Services
Live and Unplugged on cdmaOne Networks
By Perry M. LaForge
Operators in Canada, Japan, Korea and the United States are taking advantage of the inherent data capabilities of cdmaOne to bring electronic commerce, Internet access, enhanced messaging, and a variety of news and information services to millions of wireless consumers. The shift in emphasis from a predominance of voice services and related features to a broader wireless product base of information services can be attributed to several factors:
There is no denying that we live in an age where availability of information and the speed at which we can access it are of growing importance. The PC has been credited with revolutionizing the workplace, and the addition of the Internet has accelerated the move to making the PC an item commonly found in the home, not just the office. "Surfing the net" has become a pastime for millions of people around the world. At the same time, mobile telephony has been experiencing tremendous growth in all corners of the world. It is inevitable that these two technologies converge at some point, and that point is now.
The third generation (3G) wireless network will enable data applications at speeds on an equal footing with today's landline networks. Operators, assured of the future migration to data rates in excess of 144 kilobits per second (KBPS), are not waiting until those data speeds are available. They are taking advantage of the data rates cdmaOne offers today and the availability of handsets that can connect directly to the Internet to introduce wireless Internet and information services now.
In Japan, DDI Corporation and IDO Corporation have introduced web browsing services under the brand names EZweb (DDI) and EZaccess (IDO) as part of their nationwide cdmaOne service. Commenting on the offering, DDI vice president Mr. Onodera said, "Our EZweb service has been very successful in the market. Japanese consumers have shown they want and need Internet information access from the screens of their cdmaOne phones." Using a Hitachi phone that incorporates a WAP microbrowser, a subscriber can access email and over 100 content websites including news, stocks, weather, travel and sports directly from the handset. "The rapid sale of EZaccess phones shows us we have found a successful combination of services," said Akimasa Egawa, chairman of IDO. "The voice quality of cdmaOne with the standards-based WAP microbrowser and Internet information services give great value to our customers."
The Japanese operators have found a creative way to stimulate use of their Internet browsing service by distributing an editing tool designed for creating home pages compatible with EZweb and EZaccess. "My Deck Editor" software allows creation of HDML homepages on a PC without specific programming knowledge of HDML. DDI and IDO anticipate the free distribution of the tool will promote the spread of private and corporate home pages accessible by cdmaOne handsets.
Korean operator KT Freetel, who markets cdmaOne service under the PCS016 brand name, is in discussions with Microsoft on ways to develop and deploy wireless Internet and corporate data services for businesses and consumers in Korea, a very competitive wireless market. Kun Ho Chun, KT Freetel's executive vice president for new product development, explained the emphasis the company is placing on data services. "Korea Telecom Freetel believes that wireless data services are key not only to helping people access information anytime and anywhere, but also to retaining subscribers in this competitive arena through our SMS-based data services, Handynet. Our next step is to expand the customer base and provide more standards-based, integrated wireless data services," said Chun.
The recent demonstration by KT Freetel of 64 KBPS data and the announcement that its Personal Network Services (PersNet) will soon be deployed are examples of the operator's expansion plans for data services. High-speed wireless Internet access and interactive data communications will supplement the SMS data services already available. PersNet will enable customers to take advantage of e-commerce, on-line stock trading, on-line banking and travel reservations via access to the Internet through cdmaOne handsets.
Operators are launching cdmaOne wireless Internet and Information Services at a rapid pace
In North America, operators are also launching a variety of wireless information services at a rapid pace. Canada's Bell Mobility introduced Digital Data to Go, a product offering wireless on-line banking, real-time email and web browsing, in May. The service works across a variety of computing devices including cdmaOne phones, most laptops, and handheld and palm-sized computing devices. It provides access to email, schedules and files through encoded data links to corporate Intranets and the Internet. PCS Mobile Browser is another service Bell Mobility launched for instant access to real-time information through the Internet on a cdmaOne handset. Customers can send and receive email and gain access to a wide range of lifestyle information such as real-time stock quotations, news headlines and web-411 directory services directly on cdmaOne handsets.
Discussing their launch of wireless data services, Randy Reynolds, president and CEO of Bell Mobility, noted, "Today we deliver on George Gilder's prophecy that the most common PC of the next decade will be the digital cellular phone. We are dedicated to delivering to our customers the power and interactivity of the Internet from a range of wireless devices. Together with our partners, we have made the convergence of wireless communications and the Internet a reality."
Charlotte Burke, vice president of services development, said Bell Mobility has listened to its customers in designing these services. "They told us they want convenience, ease of use, reliability, affordability and, most important, they want the applications to be relevant to their business and personal needs. With Digital Data to Go, for instance, what could be easier to use since our CDMA phones come with an IP address and built-in modem. All you need is a cable to connect from the phone to your laptop or palmtop computer." In addition to launching services customers can use with existing data-capable cdmaOne handsets, Bell Mobility plans to introduce smart phones into the market later this year including the Neopoint and QUALCOMM's pdQ for integrated PDA and wireless phone functionality.
A number of cdmaOne operators are offering data services and Internet access in the United States. AirTouch launched Net Access at the end of July, providing mobile users and travelers with email access, file transfer capabilities, fax services and access to Intranet and Internet sites by plugging their laptop into a data-ready cdmaOne phone. Net Access eliminates the need for a wireless modem by connecting via new data-ready phones such as the QUALCOMM 860 Thin Phone. Connection to the Internet with Net Access is exceptionally fast, with tests showing typical speeds of less than 10 seconds compared to as much as 30 seconds for dial-up access from a desktop computer.
"In today's fast-paced world, Net Access will help you stay in touch, manage information more productively and balance your life," said Arun Sarin, CEO of the US/Asia Pacific region of Vodafone AirTouch plc, AirTouch's parent company. "It promises to be as revolutionary for personal information access and management as cellular was for voice communications." Net Access is the first commercially available service of several mobile Internet offerings planned by AirTouch. Other products coming soon include wireless portal services that will work from handheld smart phones and PDAs to facilitate a variety of mobile messaging, information and e-commerce services.
GTE Wireless also previewed its wireless data and Internet services in July with an October launch planned in 14 states across America. Email, web browsing, and access to calendar and contact information via a browser-enabled cdmaOne phone, a laptop connected to a cdmaOne phone or a PDA were demonstrated by GTE. Rob Keller, director of business marketing for GTE Wireless, commented on the increasing trend toward wireless computing and mobility tools. "Workers want mobility. No one wants to feel chained to the office anymore. By the middle of next year, we expect every phone we ship will be able to access the Internet," said Keller.
The Sprint PCS Wireless Web suite of services was introduced in August with nationwide availability slated for late September. The wireless data offerings from Sprint PCS -- Wireless Web Browser, Wireless Web Updates from Yahoo! and Wireless Web Connection -- are three distinct products that allow consumers and business users to access the information they need, when they need it, from anywhere they happen to be on Sprint's nationwide cdmaOne network.
"We're sending the message loud and clear that Sprint PCS is Internet ready when you are," said Andrew Sukawaty, Sprint PCS president. Sprint is expanding on data services already available, such as SMS and numeric paging, by incorporating customized, automatic updates from Yahoo! including sports, weather, stock quotes, horoscopes, and news headlines. The end users manage what updates they want to receive and when they want to receive them for ultimate flexibility and customization. The web connection and web browsing products will enable mobile users to wirelessly accomplish virtually anything they do today from a wired device. For web connection, the wireless device will take the place of a modem to give the user access to personal information tools and corporate network content including email, schedules, task lists, contacts/address books, order forms and key documents.
Sprint PCS will introduce smart phones such as the NP1000 by Neopoint in September and the pdQ by QUALCOMM later this year. In addition, Sprint is ensuring that all customers can easily access wireless data on nearly any Sprint PCS cdmaOne phone. All Sprint phones currently have SMS capabilities and will automatically be able to take advantage of theYahoo! information updates. Most phones introduced by Sprint PCS in 1999 and beyond will feature microbrowser and mobile connectivity capabilities out of the box. For those users with an older phone, data connectivity can be enabled with a simple software upgrade and a Wireless Web Connection kit that will be available from Sprint PCS. "Business users and consumers will be amazed by how affordable and simple it will be to access select text-based Internet information or dial up their corporate network remotely," said Charles Levine, chief sales and marketing officer for Sprint PCS. "Customers can begin to connect wirelessly in a matter of minutes without the frustration often associated with new software."
The common themes of the data and Internet service introductions by cdmaOne operators are the ease of use for the consumer, the availability of devices to directly access web content or take the place of a modem when connecting wirelessly to a laptop, and the speed with which network connections can be made. These advances are real drivers to the commercialization of wireless data services and the reach they will have to the consumer market.
The CDMA Development Group (CDG) has been engaged in development activities to ensure that cdmaOne networks have these data capabilities in a standard approach, compatible with Internet Protocol (IP). Ease of migration to incorporate new features in the existing network is a key requirement of the CDG's evolution strategy. The number of wireless Internet and information service launches by cdmaOne operators is testament to the success of these efforts to date. The CDG is placing ongoing emphasis on evolving the cdmaOne network to enhance the functionality available today and incorporate 3G data speeds and capacity enhancements while providing for seamless migration. The cdmaOne operator is uniquely positioned to enhance the existing network to support multiple data and voice functions on a single network platform, without making a large capital investment to upgrade. The capabilities already standardized for cdmaOne, including data speeds of up to 144 KBPS and a doubling of capacity, ensure that cdmaOne wireless Internet and information services will continue to roll out, as well as increase in scope and geographic coverage, marking this as the age of wireless communications and information technology convergence.