RealTime IT News

Spaniards Get Mobile Voice E-mail

Spanish cellular phone users can read e-mail with their eyes closed and respond with their hands free.

Telefónica, S.A., Spain's leading telephone operator, now offers the world's first voice-based mobile e-mail service.

With the Movistar Net service, cellular phone users can use their existing phones to listen to e-mail through text-to-voice conversion--and respond to those e-mails using only their voice. The voice response is then digitalized as a ".wav" voice file and returned to the sender.

"With this service, users can check their e-mail without having to go online from their home or office, or having to carry around a laptop," said a Telefónica spokesperson. "MoviStar Net is the first in a new generation of MoviStar services in the area of Internet-mobile phone convergence, and other novelties are soon to follow."

In addition to Telefónica online services like Telefónica Data, TeleLine and InfoNegocio, several third-party ISPs have agreed to carry the service. Jet Internet, Hipocom and Altanet are a few of the companies allowing their customers to check e-mail through the Movistar GSM network.

"We haven't had to do anything special. Telefónica offered us the service and of course we accepted." said Gabriel Adane, spokesman for Hipcom.

"We're hoping for more people to sign up, but so far it really hasn't taken off... As of yet, there's no set price. Telefónica says it's making it free for the first two months, and until we know the price, we won't know what to charge."

Adane said the service, which bounces messages from the ISP to the phone company, is "as secure as regular e-mail."

Headed by Juan Villalonga Navarro, Telefónica (formerly Telefónica de España) operates a mobile communications network with more than five million subscribers.

The former state monopoly also manages 16 million local lines. With services extended to Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, the company's 1998 sales stood at $28.4 billion--up 30.6 percent from 1997.