Cellnet launches Net access on a prepay mobile phone

Get a credit, get a phone and you're online! Cellnet gets there first and guarantees handsets to boot. Justin Pearse reports

Internet access on a prepay mobile phone will be available starting April 3 thanks to an aggressive tactic by BT Cellnet to oust other players in the fledgling mobile Internet arena. The move means users will access the Internet for around a tenth of the price of a PC.

Cellnet's mobile Internet unit, launched by BT Thursday, promises to have the know-how and resources to drive WAP into the mass market with Britain's first pre-pay WAP phone, restructured pricing tariffs and guaranteed supplies of WAP handsets including the Motorola Timeport and Mitusubishi Trium.

Cellnet is investing £160m in the venture which Cellnet managing director Peter Erskine describes as "The turning point for mobile Internet."

Cellnet's belief that the launch of a pre-pay tariff and handset will explode the WAP protocol is endorsed by IDC's Tim Sheedy, who reckons the prepay model is "crucial" for driving mass market uptake.

Cellnet also claims it has cracked the lack of handsets issue that have dogged Orange by sourcing "hundreds of thousands" of WAP phones -- mainly Mitsubishi's Trium -- ahead of its April launch. "In the next quarter we have cornered the market in WAP handsets and over half of handsets we ship will be WAP," says Kent Thexton, managing director BT mobile Internet worldwide.

Cellnet also announced that an extension of its partnership with Freeserve would allow WAP subscribers to access their Freeserve accounts over a mobile.

Cellnet's mass market WAP offerings now break down as follows:

  • Mobile Internet pre-pay packages: Mitsubishi Trium Geo-@(WAP) handset WAP calls 10p/min flat rate, voice 30p/min peak 5p/min off-peak 400 minutes WAP calls for first three months.

  • Mobile Internet post-pay packages: Net 100, Net 200 and Net 400 giving 100, 200 or 300 free data or voice calls for £20, £30 and £50, all WAP calls 10p/min

  • Pre-pay handsets will go on sale on April 3 for £99.99. WAP calls will be charged at a flat rate of 10p per minute and subscribers will receive 200 free minutes of weekend calls.

Guy Kewney predicts WAP rage. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

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