Dell has teamed up with two UK mobile operators to offer a GPRS system for corporate wireless computing.
The service, which will run with BT Cellnet and One2One, will give remote and mobile staff high-speed wireless access to email, the internet or a corporate intranet.
David Krathwohl, director of wireless business development at Dell Europe, said: "Our existing wireless local area network notebooks are fine within a building or campus, but GPRS technology offers a new way for business users to get connected.
"It provides connectivity from trains and airports, and staff travelling abroad no longer have to worry about finding phone adapters or working out local phone dial up codes."
The offering includes a notebook with a factory installed Dell TrueMobile GPRS 5000 PC card, along with the software and drivers, plus a Sim card from either BT Cellnet or One2One.
The corporate package relies on a leased line connection. Dell partners will install and configure the server behind the company firewall for around £6,000 or customers can carry out their own configuration.
Corporate customers will be offered connection by BT Cellnet, which will bill the customer for data delivery directly. Smaller companies will connect over the internet, making the installation process faster and simpler, and will use One2One's GPRS services.
Pricing is based on the volume of data transferred. The two plans available on launch are 20Mb per month for £30 and 50Mb per month for £50. Data usage exceeding these monthly limits will incur additional charges of £1.50 and £1.00 per megabyte respectively. There is a one-time connection charge of £29.79. Charges exclude the cost of the leased line.
The hardware is currently being tested with three customers, including field services engineering company Getronics. Other beta customers were not named.
"We have a large sales and engineering workforce on the road at all times. With the Dell GPRS solution we anticipate that the efficiency of our mobile workforce will be significantly increased," said Tim Patrick-Smith, IS manager at Getronics UK. "Being able to purchase a complete solution saves us valuable resources from both a time and cost perspective."
Service in the UK is being rolled out in March and in mainland Europe later this year. Dell said that BT Cellnet will offer roaming to other countries shortly but could not provide further details. "We believe there is already a business benefit for roaming," said Krathwohl.
Analysts believe that GPRS-enabled mobile computing will become more popular this year.
Andy Brown, research manager for European mobile computing at IDC, explained: "GPRS will become a reality in 2002. The economic climate has delayed many wireless projects but the total cost of ownership continues to come down and more companies are prepared to purchase notebooks for their employees.
"There is an increasing emphasis on mobility as it becomes more important for employees to get closer to customers."
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