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Washington Redskins tackle wireless access

Computerworld

(IDG) -- Monday night, about 85,000 Washington Redskins fans rolled into FedEx Field to see if the squad could better its 6-2 record in a game against the visiting Tennessee Titans.

And for the first time, football fans en route could address their biggest concerns - where to park and whether surefire Hall of Famer Darrell Green would play in the defensive backfield - via Web-enabled cell phones, pagers or personal digital assistants (The news wasn't good, however, as the Redskins lost 27-21, shifting their record to 6-3).

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Last week, the Redskins jumped on the wireless bandwagon, launching a service called Mobile Flash that will offer traffic updates and team news alerts for free.

"This gives us a chance to connect with fans in a way that we are not ordinarily able to," said Jason Gould, director of Redskins.com. The Redskins brought Gould aboard at the start of training camp to use "technologically savvy mediums to keep in contact with fans," he said.

As part of that charge, the National Football League team also began piloting an e-mail alert program last month. So far, 16,000 fans have subscribed to receive daily e-mail alerts containing tidbits on trades, game statistics and player injuries, Gould said. A number of other sports teams, such as the San Diego Chargers, offer e-mail newsletters.

Still, the Redskins are the first NFL squad to tap into wireless data services, NFL officials said. The Redskins' communications staff can input messages of up to 80 alphanumeric characters that get transmitted instantly to fans who sign up for the free service at www.redskins.com.

Although the Redskins' wireless service is free, David Chamberlain, an analyst at Probe Research in Cedar Knolls, N.J., said services such as Mobile Flash are courtesy tools for corporations to build relationships with customers. A number of airlines, for example, offer wireless access to gate changes and flight delays for their top frequent fliers.

Ztango built and hosts the Java-based application for free for the football franchise to showcase its services. But the wireless application services start-up in Herndon, Va., wouldn't disclose costs.

"With wireless, there is much more complexity than in the wired world," said Dennis Gaughan, an analyst at AMR Research Inc. in Boston. "When companies look to add wireless services, many times they are looking for a hosted infrastructure because it's a skill set that most organizations do not have yet."

According to an AMR study of 900 corporations, 30% are budgeted for some type of wireless data access project this year. By 2002, approximately 10% of those surveyed predicted that such projects will account for one of their top three spending items.




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