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BT Takes Mobile Internet To A Global Mass Market

The company has set up a new unit to offer global mobile internet services based on BT Cellnet's successful Genie service. BT also announced strategic partnerships with more than 30 world-leading companies and content providers to create new global mobile services.

Kent Thexton, former marketing director of BT Cellnet, will be managing director of the new unit.

At the same time, BT's mobile company, BT Cellnet, made a number of key announcements in the mobile Internet market. These include:

The launch of the UK's first pre-pay wireless application protocol (WAP) mobile Internet phone Restructured pricing to take the mobile internet to the mass market. Customers will be able to choose between voice-only and mobile internet calling plans, depending on usage (see separate news release).
Forecast sales of up to 500,000 WAP phones between April and June. BT Cellnet predicts that in just 18 months nearly all new mobiles will be internet-enabled.
Kent Thexton said: "Globally, the number of mobile subscribers is expected to leap 200 per cent in the next five years to more than a billion. Also BT's Internet turnover is growing at more than 80 per cent a year. The convergence of these two fast growing markets is creating a huge opportunity in a field where we already have a leading position in the world.

"Genie Internet has been a tremendous success in the UK. This service has more than 600,000 customers, growing at 4,000 a day, and is the UK's leading mobile Internet service provider. We will now replicate this success in other markets.

"BT and its joint venture partners already have the reach and the technology. Now, through today's strategic partnerships and the success of Genie Internet, we have the content appropriate for a leading player in the mobile internet field."

The worldwide mobile e-commerce market is projected to be worth $200 billion in four years when there will be about 14 billion transactions a year. BT will become the leading provider of mobile internet applications by taking advantage of mobile data networks being developed by BT and its joint ventures.

The new unit will develop a mass-market global mobile portal and applications as well as solutions for corporates, which will be offered to customers by BT in collaboration with its international joint ventures.

Also, BT will continue to create a common set of services with AT&T Wireless through its mobile Advance partnership. This represents a customer base of about 48 million in more than 15 countries.

BT will develop the service with some of the biggest names in the industry. Microsoft will provide mobile internet applications and, in accordance with previous announcements, Microsoft and BT will continue to work together to develop applications and devices which allow full access to both corporate and consumer services provided by BT globally in mobile internet.

Mobile Telecommunications International will provide further applications; Phone.com will provide the portal software, WAP gateways and certain key applications; Looksmart will develop content aggregation for customers worldwide.

Logica and Syncordia will be responsible for systems integration; Sharp, The Matsushita Group (Panasonic), Motorola, Ericsson, Siemens and NEC will all offer internet-enabled mobile handsets.

BT is working with leading content providers including BskyB, E Signal, Popcorn.co.uk, Unmissable TV, Uprush, Financial Times Information, Guardian, PR Newswire Europe, EMI, dotmusic., Interactive Investor (iii), AFX News, European Investor, GlobalNet Financial (UK Invest), NavigateOne, The Street.com, Thomson Financial, First Direct, Xest/Charles Stanley, Insurance Wide, 365 Corporation, Agence France Presse, Eclipse Sports, Sports.com, Bluesquare, Time Out, Travelocity, Lastminute.com, Mapquest.com, Michael Page, Robert Walters, and Select Appointments.

Together, they will offer up-to-the-minute news, information, entertainment services and other interactive services, which will allow users, for example, to pay credit card bills, sell shares, listen to music, watch highlights of the previous night's football match, book an airline ticket, receive directions or check a bank balance - all from a mobile device.

Joint venture partners

The Internet and portal services will be developed by the unit with BT's subsidiaries and affiliates, as well as drawing on the global reach, knowledge and expertise of these companies.

BT will work with BT Cellnet (UK), Viag Interkom (Germany), Telfort (Netherlands), SmarTone (Hong Kong) and StarHub (Singapore) to secure early implementation of the mobile portal service. It will build on existing capabilities such as Genie Internet, offering the UK's first WAP mobile internet e-mail service.

Global mobile portal

BT will invest 160 million in the global mobile applications and services. The global mobile Internet portal services will be launched in the summer, with trials commencing in April. Initially these will be offered through BT's joint ventures worldwide with the expectation of later offering to other distributors.

Next generation mobile

BT also announced today Europe's first commercial deployment of a universal mobile telecommunications service (UMTS) network (see NR0021), and BT Cellnet has already announced its forthcoming general packet radio system (GPRS) network - the first of its kind in the UK.

The UMTS network unveiled today by BT and Manx Telecom, its Isle of Man wholly-owned subsidiary, as well as leading suppliers NEC and Siemens, will be introduced early next year.

BT's mobile portal business will be offered to Manx Telecom, which will provide an excellent testbed for the rollout of this service over other third generation (3G) networks.

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