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Dell, IBM 'Connected by Vodafone'

Wireless player Vodafone Wednesday said it has signed an agreement that will pre-install its "Connected by Vodafone" service in IBM and Dell Computer mobile devices sold in Europe.

The partnership is an extension of a previously announced deal and will let some of U.K.-based Vodafone's customers buy PDAs and portable computers from the two computer giants with pre-installed mobile connection SIM cards that will then automatically connect to Vodafone Sweden's GPRS network. Dell will be offering customers a PC package with factory-installed modem and Vodafone subscription. Vodafone Sweden's GPRS service is currently available in Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, Spain, U.K., Germany and Hungary.

The phone services provider said the first "Connected by Vodafone" products would be available in the first quarter of 2003.

For their part, Round Rock, Texas-based Dell and Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM will be responsible for testing, configuration and support for all "Connected by Vodafone"-enabled PCs.

"GPRS offers a faster, more efficient connection to the Internet and local networks, wherever the user may be," said Dell product manager Magnus Tallheden.

Vodafone already has a GPRS partnership with Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer and printer maker Hewlett-Packard for billing purposes only.

The partnership is part of Vodafone's corporate concept "Mobile Office," which offers customers with PC suppliers computers that are ready to connect to the mobile data network so they can access e-mail, calendars and intranet information.

"The purpose of our partnership with Dell and IBM is to help our corporate customers make their businesses more efficient by using mobile solutions. Much of a company's work today is conducted outside the physical workplace via portable computers. With "Connected by Vodafone" it will be simpler for corporate customers to connect up their computers to our datacoms network, regardless of their location," said Vodafone Sweden Corporate Commercial Director Anders Sjoholm.

The deal is expected to give more headaches to Vodafone rivals France Telecom, which owns a majority of Orange U.K. and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile service.

Vodafone currently has its hands in mobile networks in 28 countries across five continents, and servicing over 107 million customers.