RIM picks AT&T Wireless for phone service

ITworld.com –

Research In Motion Ltd., which makes the RIM BlackBerry handheld device, announced a deal Tuesday with AT&T Wireless Service Inc. to offer a version of its device with e-mail and phone services on the carriers' high-speed data network in the U.S.

AT&T Wireless will offer its corporate customers a model of the BlackBerry Wireless Handheld that allows users to place a phone call using a plug-in earpiece and microphone. The service will be delivered over AT&T Wireless's GSM (Global Systems for Mobile Communications) voice network using GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) technology.

Also Tuesday, RIM announced a similar deal to offer voice and e-mail services with Rogers AT&T Wireless in Canada.

Earlier this month, RIM also announced an agreement with VoiceStream Wireless Corp. that would bring the device to market with high-speed voice and data capabilities in the U.S. The VoiceStream, AT&T Wireless and Rogers AT&T Wireless services are planned for launch sometime in the first half of the year. Pricing was not announced.

RIM first offered a similar device capable of offering phone services to customers in the U.K. last year, the company said. In the U.K., the BlackBerry device uses a GPRS advanced data network from mmO2 Plc., the Europe telecommunication company formerly part of British Telecommunications Plc., called BT Cellnet.

Tuesday, RIM and mmO2 announced they would expand that existing service to customers in The Netherlands, Ireland and Germany. While mmO2 is capable of supporting phone services, the company has yet to offer them to customers.

First announced in January 1999, the Blackberry Wireless Handheld device originally only offered wireless e-mail and data services. In the U.S. that service is offered through networks from Cingular Wireless and Motient Corp. Voice capabilities were first introduced on the device with mmO2's service.

Separately last week, RIM announced a deal with Motorola Inc. and Nextel Communications Inc. to develop a completely new handheld device device that lets users make phone calls and run Java applications. The device, which will be capable of sending and receiving voice and data, will use Nextel's national network and a digital wireless technology from Motorola, called iDen.

The shape of that device, as well as its price, was not yet announced. It is expected to be released in the fourth quarter this year.

RIM's latest announcements add to the growing pool of handheld makers adding wireless and phone services to their devices. Palm Inc. announced Monday a new version of its handheld with e-mail capabilities. Handspring Inc. is also set to release its Trio portable computer and phone based on the Palm operating system.

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