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E-Mail Meets Cellular Phones Through Roam Secure's Product

October 8, 2001 

Sometimes phone lines are jammed, or it is too loud to hear, or talking in public seems inappropriate. David Levy and David Drescher, co-founders of Roam Secure Inc., hope that people will still pick up their cell phones to communicate -- using their product, which provides access to e-mail through cellular phones.

When Drescher and Levy founded the company 15 months ago, they planned to develop a next-generation network product. But they switched gears after realizing that broadband connections were not being deployed as quickly as many in the industry had first thought.

Instead, they spent the next five months developing a system to connect e-mail accounts and cell phones. The result, a service called RoaMail, reroutes e-mails from users' in-boxes to their cell phones, displays the messages and allows users to reply using the phone's dial pad.

Drescher and Levy say their product, which went on the market in May, is the only one available that enables people to read e-mail from personal cell phones. Similar services offered by competitors usually require that the customer purchase a separate gadget and pay a monthly fee, they said.

They think RoaMail can be equally helpful to busy professionals and college kids. The company is targeting people who might not want to invest in a hand-held computer, which can perform the same function, but still want e-mail access wherever they are.

The service works on most cell phones and can connect to any e-mail account except Hotmail and AOL, which have prevented other companies from accessing their servers. Individuals who sign up for RoaMail on the company's Web site pay $11 a month for the service, and corporations pay about $100 a year for each user. The company won't say how many customers it has so far.

Drescher and Levy believe the demand for products that help people stay connected will rise significantly in the coming months. On the day of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, RoaMail users were still able to send e-mail messages, despite clogged phone lines,they said, because text messages take up less network space.

Todd Barnes, an information technology consultant who has used RoaMail for several months, was driving to a meeting at the Capitol when it was evacuated. He realized after several tries that trying to use his cell phone to make calls was futile. He said, however, that he was able to send e-mail to check in with out-of-town family and friends.

"It's more important than ever for people to be in constant touch," Drescher said. "We think that this market is going to explode."

By Ellen McCarthy Washington Post Staff Writer, Copyright © 2001 The Washington Post Company

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