Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Move to Wireless E-Mail Cuts the Cord on Phone Lines

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Move to Wireless E-Mail Cuts the Cord on Phone Lines

Article excerpt

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Lawyer Ann Mitchell was in the Starbucks coffee shop in San Jose, Calif., on a recent Saturday when her Hewlett-Packard Co. hand-held computer beeped.

It was e-mail from a client, who had just been served with papers seeking to revoke visitation rights to his 10- and 11-year-old sons. His ex-wife's lawyer was hoping the surprise Saturday morning filing would leave little time for Mitchell to gear up for a Monday court appearance.

Mitchell's go-anywhere e-mail foiled the plan. She spent the weekend preparing her arguments and won the hearing. The father is still seeing his boys. "My clients know and appreciate that I'm on-line and reachable 24 hours a day," said Mitchell, who specializes in representing fathers in parenting disputes. Mitchell is one of a growing band of tech-savvy Americans reading their e-mail and scanning the Internet without plugging their computers into phone lines. Falling prices, new hand-held devices and plain, old frustration with phone companies and Internet service providers are persuading people to cut the telephone cord. That's leading to an explosion in customers for wireless e-mail and Internet services, said Ian Gillott, a senior analyst at International Data Corp. The number's expected to increase to about half a million by 1999 from about 100,000 today, he said. Ardis Inc., a unit of Motorola Inc., is the largest provider of wireless e-mail, with a network covering the top 425 U.S. metropolitan areas and about 70,000 mainly corporate users. It expects that to increase to 100,000 by year-end, spurred by a big price cut, Ardis President and Chief Executive Walt Purnell said. Ardis's monthly service is $70, including rental of the wireless modem and as much as 100 kilobytes of messages -- enough for about 200 e-mails a month. That's a big savings from last year, when users had to pay as much as $500 to lease or buy the wireless modem -- a plastic box slightly smaller than a pack of cards with a tongue that slides into a slot in a hand-held or laptop computer. Also helping are new hand-held palmtop computers, or HPCs, equipped with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE software. These sell for about $500. The second-largest wireless data company, RAM Mobile Data, is going after the consumer market even more aggressively. A joint venture between the New York-based Kulukundis shipping family and BellSouth Corp., RAM Mobile Data has spent nine years and $600 million building its network. For $44 a month, a customer can rent a new device called an Interactive Pager with unlimited number of e-mails for a six-month promotional period. RAM also offers a service in which a user can reach somebody who's not on the Internet by sending a message to RAM, which is then delivered as a telephone call with a digital voice. …

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