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Telecom Italia Mobile Rolls Out Wireless Internet Service

The growing cellular phone market is the target of the new Internet service introduced by Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM), the nation's leading cellular telephone service.

Utilizing Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), cellular phones contracted through TIM and predisposed for Internet service will automatically be connected to the company's server, allowing visual display on the telephone screen.

Digital information is provided continuously, in script format through the ScriptTIM service, thanks to a microbrowser incorporated into the telephone terminal, capable of reading WML, a format similar to the HTML protocol utilized in contemporary Web sites.

Currently, however, full Internet access in not available. According to one representative, in addition to text, customers may currently link to Yahoo! Italia and Romaonline.net.

Additional access is planned in the coming months. Another restriction is the speed in which mobile phones receive information. Presently WAP reads data at 9600 bps.

However, it won't be long, according to a TIM spokes person, that an evolution to the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) will allow the company to offer 2 mbits per second, making cellular Internet access comparable to that of PCs.

In a separate announcement, Apple stated that they too were moving towards the cellular market with possible joint ventures with TIM's parent company Telecom Italia or Omnitel, the second largest cellular service provider. Under the agreement, the iMac computer would be sold at all Telecom or Omnitel sales outlets.

"We're negotiating with both of the major cellular phone companies and Internet providers," explained Apple's Italy administrator, Enzo Biagini. "A definitive partnership should be reached shortly, allowing Apple computers to be available in stores for the Christmas season."

Part of the agreement would include free Internet access for each customer purchasing the iMac machine. Initially the service will be offered to fixed computers linked to traditional telephone networks. By early next year, however, it will be expanded to mobile units with cellular connections.

During the past five years cellular telephone users in Italy have increased from 2.24 million to 24 million.



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