Lucent adds voice to data services

Lucent Technologies has unveiled its latest technology -- PacketGSM -- a service which allows mobile phone operators to transfer data more quickly and efficiently over existing GSM (Global Systems for Mobile Communications) networks.

As the world waits for UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) -- due to be launched in 2002 and promising a whole raft of services for sending data quickly via mobiles -- PacketGSM will allow operators the chance to add voice to current data services. GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) is the system which currently carries data (albeit slowly) over mobiles.

Critics may view PacketGSM as a rival to UMTS but for operators unprepared to invest billions in third generation technology PacketGMS is one solution a Lucent spokesman claims. Jupiter analyst, Noah Yasskin, describes solutions like PackageGSM as "nothing revolutionary but rather stepping stones to UMTS".

What the applications for UMTS will be is still a matter of speculation but Yasskin believes one of the most useful functions of data-carrying mobiles will be for time sensitive and location sensitive services and news and weather information. "Our research has found that people see messaging as a core function as well," he said.

Lucent will demonstrate PacketGSM at Telecoms '99 in Geneva in September. Customer trials will start at the beginning of next year, with commercial releases expected by the end of 2000. No information about which operators will take up the service is yet available.