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BlackBerry wireless e-mail comes to Europe

August 15, 2001

BlackBerry pager

(IDG) — The U.K. will see the first commercial launch of the BlackBerry wireless e-mail service in Europe next month, with the Netherlands set to follow before the end of this year and other countries in 2002, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM) said Tuesday.

RIM, based in Canada, has an agreement with mobile operator BT Cellnet Ltd. to sell BlackBerry in the U.K. Memorandums of understanding have been signed with Societe Francaise du Radiotelephone SA (SFR) in France, Esat Digifone Ltd. in Ireland, Telfort Holding NV in the Netherlands, and Internet company DADA SpA in Italy. Digifone and Telfort are both BT subsidiaries.

"There will be more memorandums of understanding announced in the coming months. A major priority is to get Europe-wide roaming," said Tilly Quanger, a spokeswoman for RIM.

"Roaming will be available on the mobile networks of at least BT and its affiliates from the launch of the service," said Ina van der Meulen, a spokeswoman for Telfort in Amsterdam. Germany's VIAG Interkom GmbH is also part of the BT family, so users of Blackberry devices from Digifone, Telfort and BT Cellnet will be able to roam in Germany.

Operating on GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) mobile networks, the BlackBerry devices -- large pagers with a keyboard -- will offer always-on connection to corporate e-mail inboxes, with calendar and other functions following later. The offering in Europe will be limited to enterprise users.

In the U.K., BT Cellnet will offer the Enterprise Edition of BlackBerry for between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds (US$2,843 to $4,265), for server software and 20 licenses. The BlackBerry devices themselves are purchased separately, and will cost between 400 and 450 pounds ($568-$639). The GPRS service will cost 39 pounds ($55) per user per month, according to Quanger. BT has committed to order 175,000 of the BlackBerry devices.

In the U.S., the BlackBerry Enterprise Server with 20 licenses is sold for $2,999. The most expensive Blackberry device in North America, the RIM957, costs $499, with service priced at $39.99 per month, according to the BlackBerry Web site. In North America, the devices and service are also sold to individual users.

The BlackBerry devices used in Europe differ from those used in North America. In Europe, for example, the devices support Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME), which allows third parties to develop software to run on the device. With a software upgrade, the European device can also be turned into a mobile phone.

The European devices are not compatible with the ones used in North America; at least until GPRS networks are rolled out there. Currently the devices in the U.S. and Canada operate on so-called Mobitext networks run by wireless operators.

RIM suggests companies buy both European and North American devices and ask their staff to synchronize them before crossing the Atlantic. "We realize this is not an ideal situation," said Quanger.

The BlackBerry Enterprise Edition is designed to work with corporate e-mail systems. It currently supports Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange, with support for Lotus Development Corp.'s Lotus Domino planned for later this year.


By Joris Evers, Copyright © 2001 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.


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