RealTime IT News

Bell Mobility Hooks Up To 3G With AirCard

Bell Mobility is breaking out of the 3G digital wireless phone carrier business with a wireless local area network (WLAN) card that lets customers get on the Internet using a laptop or personal digital assistant (PDA), officials announced Thursday.

The Sierra Wireless AirCard 555 expands on the traditional wireless phone service, letting Bell Mobility customers use their laptops or PDAs in 3G "hotspots."

The Canadian wireless phone company is the third major carrier in North America to handle laptop/PDA use on its next-generation network; in January, U.S.-based Verizon Wireless announced its AirCard support. Last week, Canadian competitor Microcell PCS launched a similar service to its customers.

According to Don Blair, Bell Mobility spokesperson, the carrier guarantees speeds of 80 Kbps, slightly higher than a normal 56 Kbps dial up modem and the max possible speed for Verizon Wireless.

Unlike the AirCard 550, which connects users to the Internet and download Web pages or emails, the AirCard 555 enhances on the popular card to also deliver voice and two-way messages for "chat" sessions.

Available now at Bell World stores and online, the AirCard goes for $399.95, though deals exist on a Google.com search for as low as $125 for the WLAN card kit. The kit contains the WLAN card, data cable, coupler/connector, antenna and documentation.

Jason Cohenour, Sierra Wireless senior vice president of distribution, said the deal gives Bell Mobility true mobility, whether using a wireless phone or laptop.

"The Bell Mobility 1X network offers clear benefits to Canadian mobile users who demand wireless access to information - anywhere, anytime," he said. "We continue to broaden our next generation product line with partners like Bell Mobility so we may offer innovative wireless solutions for mobile users of today and the future."

The Bell Canada subsidiary uses first-generation 3G technology, like that used by Verizon Wireless in the U.S., to deliver data transfer speeds up to 144Kbps to wireless phones, though the technology really delivers between 40-60 Kbps.

The AirCard 555, unlike most technology it seems these days, won't become obsolete anytime soon. It's capable of handling speeds of up to 153 Kbps, something consumer-grade 3G products won't see for some time. The next generation of 3G technology, 1xEV, is theoretically able to reach speeds of up to 2 Mbps, but likely won't be seen by users until at least late 2003.

Bell Mobility has been increasing the ubiquitous reach of its 3G network all year, adding services expanding its footprint throughout Canada. Currently, only major urban areas in Ontario and Quebec can use the next-generation services, though Bell Canada officials said it is expanding to Alberta and British Columbia later this year.