Call waiting

Call waiting<@VM>27 wireless phones let your fingers do the Web surfing

Wireless Web-ready phones are the next wave in communications, but they have their limits

J.B. Miles

Special to GCN

If you buy into the hype, digital wireless Internet telephones are the latest and greatest technology for mobile business users since analog car telephones.

Their time is coming soon, but at the moment, there's little evidence that these phone sets amount to much more than cool accessories for the hip and affluent. It will be a while before they can be considered serious business tools.

On the plus side, wireless Internet phones are even smarter than the smart digital voice phones you can buy at the mall. They offer all the nifty features of advanced voice technology, such as call waiting, call forwarding and speed dialing, and come with a built-in microbrowser that lets users dial up on-the-fly connections to the Internet. Users can send and receive e-mail and perform other online tasks once reserved for desktop PCs wired to land-based telephone lines.

The NeoPoint 1000 weighs 6.4 ounces and features an 11-line display. It's priced at $300.

Low national support

But the best Web phone in the world won't work unless a wireless service provider supports Internet services. Only a handful of network operators'including AT&T Wireless Services, Verizon Wireless (formerly Bell Atlantic Mobile), Dobson Communication Corp., GTE Wireless, Nextel Online, Sprint PCS, US West Inc. and Vodafone AirTouch'support Internet services on anything close to a national level.

A few more probably will have rolled out national services by the time you read this, but before you buy into any wireless service provider's plan, make sure it includes Internet services along with its voice plans.

From a data standpoint, Web phones are slow. A maximum transfer speed of 14.4 Kbps is hardly enough to manage any but the simplest Web transactions. Real-time commerce transactions and lengthy e-mail file transmissions can crawl. The tiny displays of most Internet-capable phones aren't their best features, either; try scrolling several pages of data across a 5-line LCD screen the size of a matchbook.

The Web content available on Internet cell phones is extremely limited and entirely text-based.

The Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) Forum, a 200-member consortium of service providers and manufacturers, has developed a special syntax for converting Hypertext Transfer Protocol and Hypertext Markup Language into the Wireless Markup Language, or WML.

The Mitsubishi T250 has a microbrowser, modem and e-mail capability. It's priced at $200.

Kyocera's Thin Phone QCP 1960 uses the 1,900-MHz frequency and is priced at $90.

The Motorola i1000 Plus includes a microbrowser and a wireless modem.
It's priced at $199.

But both the server at the Web site and the Web phone itself must employ WML to exchange information.

Until more Web content providers are convinced that wireless is the way to go'a likely occurrence'the number of WML-enabled Web sites will be limited.

Wireless service providers employ a variety of wireless standards and technologies using different frequencies to bring data messaging to users.

Because most Web phones are designed to work with only a few of these technologies at most, it can be difficult for users to find the wireless network handset that will best meet their needs.

These drawbacks aside, it won't be long before the hype and the reality about wireless Internet telephony begin to merge. The marginal 14.4-Kbps speed of Web phone transmissions will improve to a respectable 144 Kbps and eventually to 384 Kbps and higher as service providers work on next-generation wireless technology to make it more competitive with standard telephony.

The minuscule phone screens will become larger'NeoPoint Inc.'s NP 1000 and NP 1600 phones currently lead the pack in display size with 11 lines of readout room on each set'and manufacturers are working on ways to build more memory into their phones.

Web content also will improve dramatically as faster throughput speeds emerge and as more commercial Web sites catch the wireless wave. And the performance of Web phones, already good, will improve even more.

Charge and recharge

Typical talk times usinginternal nickel-metal hydride or lithium-ion batteries is already in the three- to four-hour range for most phones, and increase up to 10 hours if an external battery is used. Standby times are generally in the 50- to 100-hour range, with an external battery increasing it to 200 hours or more.

Dual-, tri- and quad-band models bring service compatibility with a number of otherwise incompatible digital and analog standards. And prices for Internet-capable wireless phones are already dropping as sales increase.

So the future for wireless Internet phones looks bright. According to a recent white paper from Inc., a maker of Web browser and server software for wireless phones, 525 million WAP handsets will be shipped to users in the United States and western Europe between now and 2003. And it won't be just rich kids and technogeeks using them.

'The Internet and e-mail are becoming very much a piece of people's business lifestyle and personal lifestyle. People go home now, and they go to their desk and log on and see if they got any mail. What wireless Internet allows you to do is keep track of that information when you're on the move,' Andrew Sukawaty, chief operating officer of Sprint PCS, said recently during an interview on IT Radio Network.

Here's what you can do now with the right phone and service provider combination:

Get information online. A wireless Internet service provider can deliver to users current information about weather, stocks, sports, news and even localized traffic reports. Other information that's not time-critical, such as horoscopes and information about local restaurants and movies, is also available.

Sprint PCS has bundled news and information services from Yahoo Inc. into its package of wireless Internet offerings, and Nextel Online customers gain access to the Microsoft Network Wireless portal. Other wireless service providers offer similar service and phone offerings with Yahoo, MSN or other news content providers.

Buy online. AT&T Wireless Group's new PocketNet service brings a bundle of more than 40 Web sites to its users, including and, from which you can make purchases or engage in auction transactions using an Ericcson R280LX or Mitsubishi MobileAccess T250 wireless phone. Other service plans, such as those from Sprint PCS, offer similar access to commercial Web sites such as, and the list is expanding as they attune services to the requirements of users.

In a recent development, Nokia Americas and Visa International announced a cooperative agreement to introduce credit card payments for mobile electronic commerce.

Do some banking. Accessing your local bank's automated teller machine from the screen of your cellular phone isn't yet a reality, but it will be soon. Digital transactions are easy to encrypt, so your transactions will be inherently secure.

Realistically, you won't be able to withdraw cash or make deposits, but you will be able to get your current balance, transfer funds and receive a statement of your account.

Dial up the basics
' Remember, you're not just buying a phone, you're also buying a service provider. Ask about the provider's current Internet services or its plans for rolling them out.

' Don't expect PC-level Web browsing from a wireless Internet phone.

' Buy a dual-, tri- or quad-band model for greater flexibility.

' Consider whether you can afford
to wait. Wireless Internet technology is likely to improve in the near future.

Eventually, subscribers will be able to pay bills directly from their cell phones.

Send and receive e-mail. E-mail users can send and receive messages directly from their handsets. Given the relatively small memories of handsets, e-mail management tasks can be handled from the server at the service provider's central location.

Use a personal organizer. Virtually all services now provide wireless versions of subscribers' address books and calendars. Like e-mail, these features can be synchronized and managed from a central site, with alerts sent to individual users whenever an address or appointment is changed. To dial a number in your address book, select the correct address and connect with the handset's Send button.

Control your service plan. Inc. lists a couple of features that come with its version of WAP browser software. Feature Control enables service providers to send information about new rate plans directly to users' handsets.

Users can then select or reject the new plan. Similar controls govern the use of features such as voice mail or call forwarding.

Identify yourself. A digital handset can serve as a personal identifier similar to the way a credit card does but with more flexibility.

Sprint PCS users can register on the fly with using their Web phones as transaction terminals and personal identifiers. Expect this trend to continue.

J.B. Miles of Pahoa, Hawaii, writes about communications and computers.

VendorProductNetwork type andfrequencyTalk/standbytime, in hoursWeightDisplaylinesBattery typeDigital datacapabilityPrice
Alcatel USA
Plano, Texas
OneTouch Viewdb WAP900-MHz GSM4.6/130 5.3 ouncesFourNickel-metal hydrideMicrobrowser,e-mail, wirelessmodemNot yet releasedin United States
Ericsson Cellular Phones
Research Triangle Park, N.C.
R280LX800-MHz/1,900-MHz TDMA, 800-MHz AMDS3/1056.1 ouncesFiveNickel-metal hydrideMicrobrowser,e-mail, wirelessmodem $100 (AT&T PocketNet)
Kyocera Wireless Corp.
San Diego
Thin Phone QCP 860800-MHz CMDA PCS2.5/964.2 ouncesFiveLithium-ionMicrobrowser,e-mail, wirelessmodem$219 (Bell Atlantic)
QCP 860Thin PhoneQCP 19601,900-MHz CMDA PCS
4.2 ouncesFiveLithium-ionSame$90 (US West)
Thin PhoneQCP 2760 Dual-Band,Dual Mode800-MHz/1,900-MHz CMDA PCS, 800-MHz AMDS2.5/964.4 ouncesFiveLithium-ionSame$130 (Sprint PCS)
Thin PhoneQCP 2760 Dual-Band,Dual Mode1,900-MHz CMDA PCs, 800-MHz AMDS 4/100 6.5 ouncesFiveLithium-ionSame$130 (Sprint PCS)
pdQ 800-MHz800-MHz CMDA PCS 2.5/20 10.0 ouncesFiveLithium-ion pdQbrowser, e-mail, Palm Computingplatform, wireless modem$800 (Sprint PCS)
pdQ 1900-MHz1,900-MHz CMDA PCS2.5/2010.0 ouncesFiveLithium-ionSame$800 (Sprint PCS)
Mitsubishi Wireless
Communications Inc.
Duluth, Ga.
T250 Wireless Internet Phone800-MHz/1,900-MHz TDMA, 800-MHz AMDS,CDPD 2/20 7.1 ouncesFiveNickel-metal hydrideMicrobrowser,e-mail, CDPDmodem$200
Motorola Cellular Division
Schaumburg, Ill.
Timeport P8160Dual Mode800-MHz CMDA, 800-MHzAMDS3.8/1773.8 ouncesFourLithium-ionMicrobrowser, e-mail, wireless modem$90
Timeport P8167 Dual Mode800-MHzAMDSSame4.2/2003.8 ouncesFourLithium-ionSame$300 (Sprint PCS)
Talkabout T8160 Dual ModeSame4.2/1774.1 ouncesFourLithium-ionSameAvailable by October
StarTAC ST7860W Dual ModeSame4.2/2003.7 ouncesFourLithium-ionSame$400
StarTAC ST7868W Dual Band, Tri Mode800-MHz CMDA, 1,900-MHzCMDA, 800-MHz AMDS3.7/1853.7 ouncesFourLithium-ionSame$415
i1000 PlusiDEN, 2-way radio3/60 5.4 ouncesFourLithium-ionMicrobrowser, e-mail, wireless modem, two-way radio$199 (Nextel)
i700 PlusSame4.2/818.6 ouncesFourNickel-metal hydrideSame$149 (Nextel)
i500 PlusSame4/757.2 ouncesFourNickel-metal hydrideSame$99 (Nextel)
NeoPoint Inc.
La Jolla, Calif.
NP 10001,900-MHz CMDA PCS2.5/406.4 ounces11Lithium-ionMicrobrowser, e-mail, wireless modem$300 (Sprint PCS)
NP 1600800-MHz CMDA PCS2.5/406.4 ounces11Lithium-ionSameAvailable by October
Nokia Americas
Irving, Texas
Nokia 71901,900-MHz GSM5/1504.9 ouncesFiveLithium-ionMicrobrowser, e-mail, wireless modemAvailable by October
Nokia 71601,900-MHz GSM,800-MHz/1,900-MHz TDMA, 800-MHz AMDS4.5/1254.9 ouncesFiveLithium-ionSameAvailable by October
Samsung Electronics Co.
Ltd.Plano, Texas
SCH-35001,900-MHz CDMA2.8/1505.4 ouncesFiveLithium-ionMicrobrowser, e-mail, wireless modem$150 (Sprint PCS)
SCH-8500800-MHz CDMA2.8/1503.8 ouncesFiveLithium-ionSame$200 (Sprint PCS)
Siemens Corp.
Boca Raton, Fla.
C 35i900-MHz/1,800-MHz GSM5/1803.9 ouncesFiveLithium-ionMicrobrowser, e-mail, wireless modemNot yet released in United States
M 35i900-MHz/1,800-MHz GSM5/1804.4 ouncesFiveLithium-ionSameNot yet released in United States
S 35i900-MHz/1,800-MHz GSM5/1803.4 ouncesFiveLithium-ionSameNot yet releasedin United States
Sprint PCS
Kansas City, Kan.
Touchpoint800-MHz/1,900-MHz CDMAPCS, 800-MHz AMDS3.25/1305.5 ouncesSevenLithium-ionMicrobrowser,e-mail, wirelessmodem$200 (Sprint PCS)


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