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Motorola Banks on GPRS As Unveils New Handsets

Motorola dismissed concern this week that the mobile Internet will not take off and said it would increase its high speed data handset models in mid-2001 from the present solitary offering.

This is likely to be music to the ears of promoters of the new technology General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), especially after its forerunner WAP, which offers slow and restricted mobile data services in Europe, failed to live up to consumer expectations.

“We’re saying GPRS is coming to life. It’s no more babies with nappies,” Fred Kuznik, president of Motorola’s operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa, told Reuters Tuesday in an interview at the GSM World Congress, an industry trade show in Cannes.

Motorola, the world’s second largest mobile phone maker after Nokia, is currently the only company selling a GPRS handset, called Timeport 260, that aims to give customers in Europe ‘always-on’ Web access instead of repeated dialing.

U.S. Motorola Inc, which said some 35 operators were buying its GPRS phone, will launch four new GPRS phones in the second and third quarter of this year.

Concern about the full launch of this new technology across Europe was reinforced last month when Nokia delayed plans for shipping GPRS phones in volume unit until the fourth quarter of 2001.

If GPRS, which is only up-and-running in limited volumes in some European countries, proves problematic, investors may continue to shun a sector that has become one of the biggest financial bets in history due to heavy up-front investments. European telecoms operators — who are promoting the mobile Web at the world’s biggest wireless conference here — have paid some $100 billion for new generation cell phone licenses — and future returns hinge in part on the success of GPRS.

About Fabrizio Pilato

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