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AT&T Wireless launches 2.5G with limitations


By Ephraim Schwartz

(IDG) -- AT&T wireless, spun off from AT&T as an independent company earlier this month, got off to a roaring start by announcing this week that it is the first wireless network provider to deploy 2.5G (Generation) service.

However, while the initial deployment gives the company bragging rights, the actual implementation does have a number of severe limitations. Launched in the Seattle area this week, the voice and data service has no roaming capability.

"We are in the process of signing roaming agreements," said an AT&T Wireless spokesperson. INFOCENTER
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Without roaming agreements the phone will not work beyond the Seattle area, said the spokesperson.

Performance is also less than some users may expect. The General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) at peak has a performance of 144kbps. However, users can expect in a stationary environment about 100kbps if the cellular phone deploying the technology was capable of that speed. The Motorola Timeport, Model P7382I will be able access data at only 30kbps to 40kbps, an AT&T spokesperson said.

Nevertheless, one industry analyst believes being first will have an impact on the competitive landscape.

"Given the fact that it is AT&T, it puts them in a power position to have a dominant place as services roll out, especially as NTT DoComo, an AT&T Wireless partner, starts to deploy in the states. Once these infrastructures are more available, their relationship with NTT will allow them to offer applications to consumers first then on the enterprise side," said Tim Scannell, senior analyst at Mobile Insights in Mountain View, Calif.

During the next two months, AT&T Wireless will launch in Las Vegas and Portland, Ore., and expects to have its service available on more handsets and some PDAs as well.

Pricing for data access is based on $50 for 1MB of data plus 400 voice minutes. In mid to late 2002, the wireless network provider plans to increase performance using its EDGE (Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution) technology, which requires only a software upgrade to the current technology, and will have about 388kbps performance at peak, said the spokesperson.

In 2003 the company expects to roll out its even higher performance WCDMA technology.

The Motorola Timeport phone is priced at $200.

• AT&T

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