Vodaphone Airtouch today unveiled plans for a range of customised mobile phone services that it said consumers will not be able to live without.
In addition Vodaphone confirmed that it plans to join the tidal wave of free Internet service providers. From 1 November it plans to offer a mobile email service via wireless application protocol (WAP) with online travel services, together with voice activated mail and navigation within six months.
The idea is that consumers will be able to do whatever they want from wherever they want, so long as they have their mobile telephones with them. This will include personalised services, such as news, weather and entertainment reports, stock prices, email and a virtual assistant to organise work and social appointments.
"Now no-one leaves home without their wallet, keys and mobile telephone," commented Alan Harper, managing director of Vodaphone. "We are now entering the next phase and opening up the mobile phone beyond simple voice."
Harper said the company realised that the UK market was ready for integrated, personalised services on their mobile phones when it saw that 39 million Vodaphone SMS text messages were sent last month alone.
"That is a 10 fold increase in 12 months, which says something," he explained.
Vodafone Interactive will be available free of charge to all mobile phone users. Calls made when using the service will be charged at standard tariffs, whether they are for voice or data services.
Vodafone.net, the company's ISP, will complement Vodafone Interactive. Uunet will provide Vodaphone's Internet access. The service will offer 24 hour customer support at 50p per minute from a fixed phone and around 78p per minute from a mobile.
Vodaphone, however, is not short of competition. BT Cellnet and Orange have already established Internet services and One 2 One has teamed up with Virgin Group's Internet division. Virgin is expected to launch mobile phones with Internet access on the One 2 One service this autumn.
It is estimated that 50 per cent of the UK population will have mobile phones by 2002.
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