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
“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.