Swisscom Blends Wireless Data

GENEVA – ITU Telecom World 2003 – Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) is set to provide a combined GPRS, 3G, and 802.11 PC card to its customers that will allow them to use any of those wireless access modes for a flat monthly fee (see Swisscom Converges Mobile Data).

The Swiss PTT is to sell a card that slots into PCs, just like an 802.11 card, that can sniff out three types of potential wireless data connectivity – 802.11b, wideband CDMA, and GPRS – and that automatically defaults the user to the one offering the most bandwidth.

The handy thing for the users is that they won't know which wireless data access technology they are using at any time, and the data access doesn't drop if the user moves, for example, out of range of a Swisscom hotspot and onto the GPRS network. The user might just notice a change in access speed, though: While GPRS typically offers data speeds of less than 20 kbit/s, hotspots can offer hundreds of kilobits per second in real-life situations.

What might also attract customers is that, no matter how much of each wireless access type is used, the proposed fee is still the same, a fixed €75 ($88.41) per month, or €2.50 ($2.95) per day.

Swisscom says the cards will be available within the next couple of months, and that its 3G network will be up and running either late this year or very early in 2004, though initially for business customers only. The company already has control of 350 public WLAN hotspots in Switzerland, managed by its Eurospot business (see Swisscom Buys a Bevy of PWLAN), while its GPRS network covers 99 percent of the Swiss population.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Editor, Boardwatch

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