Intel Forms Wireless Net Access Coalition

Article excerpt

Intel Corp. last week announced a broad coalition of hardware, software and wireless service vendors to bring wireless Internet access to the masses.

The Mobile Data Initiative aims to create simple technology to let people check their e-mail or browse the Web on the road, without having to plug into a telephone line.

Using wireless communications as the link, "the initiative seeks to provide business users with access to data anywhere, anytime, without compromising notebook PC performance and capability," said Stephen Nachtsheim, general manager of Intel's mobile and hand-held products group. Besides Intel, the coalition includes major notebook computer manufacturers such as Toshiba and IBM, software giant Microsoft, and a group of wireless service providers known as the North America GSM Alliance. The latter alliance includes Pacific Bell Mobile Services and other personal communications services providers using a digital standard known as Global System for Mobile Communications. GSM is used throughout Europe, as well as many countries in Asia, Latin America and North America. Intel helped forge a similar initiative with GSM-based wireless companies in Europe about 18 months ago, Nachtsheim said. The success in developing wireless data standards and technology there encouraged Intel to mount a similar effort in the United States. Although Intel isn't a force in the wireless market, it stands to gain from growing sales of portable PCs, nearly all of which use its microprocessors. Portable PCs would become more attractive if they could connect more easily to data networks. In the United States, the wireless data market has been nearly moribund, however. The Strategis Group in Washington, D.C., estimated that out of 40 million cellular phone owners, only half a million used wireless e-mail last year. Yet as Dataquest noted in a recent analysis, "the opportunity for wireless data communications in the U.S. is huge." It estimated that 10.6 million mobile professionals use computers in their work. …