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AT&T Wireless, Dell Offer Cellular Internet Access

Although wireless Internet access via Wi-Fi is growing in popularity, AT&T Wireless is taking a slightly different approach with Dell Computer to offer wireless Web access via GSM/GPRS cellular networks.

The Dell-AT&T Wireless offering, which is targeted at business customers, touts the use of cellular networks for wireless Internet access as a better way than other providers using the Wi-Fi standard.

Wi-Fi relies on connecting users through hot spots, while the Dell-AT&T Wireless system utilizes global cellular networks.

The deal will give Dell the means to help market a range of wireless Internet usage plans, based on megabyte usage and the amount of time users demand the service. The partners also plan to use the tri-band Sierra AirCard 750 wireless cellular modem, which is bundled with the various service plans.

GSM, the Global System for Mobile communication, and GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) are two global wireless communications standards. AT&T said by deploying cellular networks for its wireless Internet system, users would have broad coverage areas around the world, rather than being limited by shorter coverage ranges inherent with Wi-Fi coverage. But there is trade-off. GPRS is well-suited for sending and receiving small bursts of data over limited bandwidth.

Dell customers can choose from a variety of AT&T Wireless plans ranging from 10 megabytes to 100+ megabytes per month with usage fees starting as low as $29.99 per month. Dell offers the tri-band Sierra AirCard 750 Wireless GPRS Modem for a retail list price of $299.99 -- with special promotional pricing as low as $224.99 for a limited time with certain restrictions, the companies said in a statement.

IN a related development, AT&T Wireless has also struck a deal with PDA company Handspring to offer Handspring's Treo 270 Smartphone for between $249 and $399, if customers activate one of its GSM/GPRS wireless Internet service plans.

Handspring's Treo 270 has a built-in thumb keyboard for sending e-mail, text messages, and phone dialing. The Treo 270 also uses Handspring's Blazer browser for wireless Internet usage.

And Dell and Handspring aren't the only hardware companies getting behind devices that support wireless standards. Hewlett-Packard said Monday it is coming out with a dozen new iPAQ handhelds, notebook computers and other enhancements for tablet PCs over the next six months. HP is supporting both the 802.11b Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless standards. HP is also supporting QuickLook, new software that will work with Compaq's new line of Tablet PCs.