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BT Cellnet to Launch Consumer GPRS

LONDON -- It has obviously been the week for next-generation wireless news... BT Cellnet has announced that it is rolling out GPRS services - 2.5G always-on, faster mobile Internet connection - to consumers as of next month. BT Cellnet has offered a GPRS service to businesses since June 2000.

GPRS will first of all be available with the Motorola Timeport 260 GPRS phone, a #200 investment in itself, on May the 18th although BT Cellnet expects to add other handsets and wireless devices soon after.

The company is launching two tariffs for the service, each in addition to voice calls: one at #3.99 per month, with data downloads at 2p per kilobyte - about 5p an email, and another at #7.99 per month giving users 1MB of downloads every month, with additional downloads charged at #3.99 per megabyte.

GPRS uses existing base stations, so coverage is the same as BT Cellnet GSM coverage, about 99 percent of the UK population. However, with 3G advances continuing apace, many consumers might well be left asking themselves whether it might be worth waiting for these devices to come onstream before accessing the mobile Internet - this sort of reaction is not without precedent, as the Wap experience shows.