EarthLink Network Inc. Wednesday began test
marketing its new wireless e-mail service dubbed EarthLink Airmanager.
The wireless e-mail application is powered by Canada’s Research In Motion Ltd.
award-winning BlackBerry software.
Airmanager allows members to send and receive
e-mail messages using the BlackBerry wireless e-mail solution. Airmanager
is the first product to be offered by the company’s newly launched product
group, EarthLink Everywhere, an initiative to develop and introduce
wireless Internet services to EarthLink’s existing member base.
Tom Andrus, EarthLink vice president of product management, said the
wireless test program is the key to its Internet access from anywhere
“Our members check their e-mail an average of five times a day,” Andrus
said. “EarthLink Airmanager represents a significant innovation for
EarthLink members who are increasingly dependent on e-mail.”
“Whether it’s access to check e-mail via their computer, wireless handheld,
wireless phones, or any portable handheld device, we’re giving our members
yet another way to access their EarthLink e-mail account everywhere they
go,” he added.
The EarthLink wireless service allows members to read, forward, reply to
and compose e-mail messages over wire-free devices using their existing
EarthLink e-mail address. BlackBerry uses a “push” method to deliver e-mail
messages, so e-mail is automatically routed to a wireless handheld device
without much effort on the part of the user.
EarthLink’s pilot program is open to existing subscribers, but is limited
to the first 500 test members. The service costs $35 a month for unlimited
e-mail messaging and includes a lease of the BlackBerry wireless handheld
The BlackBerry Wireless Handheld program features an optimized display,
fully functioning keyboard, thumb-operated trackwheel and an intuitive
interface. An integrated suite of applications also provides a personal
organizer with PC synchronization software, message filtering capabilities,
and back-up utilities.
Andrus said e-mail has become an extremely important method of
communication in people’s lives.
“Today, people are tied to their laptops, or even their desktop PCs to
check their e-mail, but not for long,” Andrus said. “In fact, if a business
traveler carries a laptop only to check e-mail, this five-ounce device will
be a marvel.”
Cahner’s In-Stat Group reports that
over the past 15 years, the number of U.S. wireless subscribers has grown
from less than 100,000 people to more than 90 million. The high-tech market
research firm predicts that wireless penetration will more than double over
the next 5 years due to the demand from e-mail users.
However, In-Start further reports than annual wireless churn rates have
increased 4 percent in the last year and will continue to rise if wireless
providers do not focus on customer retention issues.
Ken Hyers, In-Stat’s industry analyst for wireless strategies services,
said it is debatable whether carriers are sufficiently aware of the
problem that churn presents.
“For most wireless service providers, the priority is to maintain high
customer acquisition rates, often at the expense of customer retention,
even when the cost to keep a current customer is a fraction of that to
acquire a new one,” Hyers said.
“Those who are aware of churn and are willing to combat its effects have
several choices,” Hyers continued. “There are a myriad of companies that
offer customer retention solutions, however, carriers must ensure that they
select the right solution for their specific needs.”
By limiting it’s test market of wireless e-mail services, EarthLink intends
ize its wireless customer churn rate when they rollout nationwide
access later this year.
Sprint Corp. topped up its investment
EarthLink to $1.1 billion earlier this week. EarthLink and Sprint
formed a broad business relationship in February 1998. The
national Internet service provider has the opportunity to negotiate further
agreements with Sprint to tap into its nationwide wireless network for massive deployment of its wireless e-mail program.
It is the strategic intent of both companies for EarthLink to remain an
independent company with the flexibility to pursue its strategic
objectives. The two companies business relationship includes the
contribution of selected assets and significant commercial commitments.