BT Cellnet has rejected claims that its Blackberry two-way pager service will run into difficulties because it runs on the wrong network technology.
The service, a runaway success in the US, runs on the Mobitex wireless data network developed in the early 1990s by Ericsson.
BT Cellnet will run Blackberry devices over GPRS in the UK but Andrew Fitton, chief executive of Transcomm, which operates the Mobitex network in the UK, has warned that running the units on a GSM network could run into problems.
"The compromises that you have to make are incompatible with sending data," he said.
Mobitex is designed for two-way packet-switched data-only communication. The speed is only 8Kbps, but Mobitex is not hindered by voice, which needs far more bandwidth.
Fitton explained that GSM, over which GPRS runs, is essentially built as a voice rather than a data network, and voice is much more important to mobile operators than data.
"When it comes to a capacity problem, which one is going to be bumped off first? You will find that, in central metropolitan locations, you can't even get GPRS to work," he said.
But BT Cellnet shrugged off the criticism. Stuart Newstead, vice president of new business products at mmO2, said: "Mobitex's strength is also its weakness. Because it is data only, when the data capacity is used up it has nowhere left to go.
"GPRS will fit around the voice so there is access to the whole GSM capacity. There is a lot more flexibility in terms of capacity, coverage and quality than you have on the Mobitex network."
Robin Bosworth, director at telecoms analysts Schema, said that businesses have to think about whether they need a guaranteed capacity within a closed user group.
"A Mobitex-based solution would be used in a command and control system such as in a fleet of ambulances or buses," he explained. "If you need dedicated bandwidth that is critical."
"I think it is less of a capacity issue and much more of a commercial issue," he added. "Service availability guarantees, and fixed rates for usage within a closed user group, are important."
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