Partnership to Deliver Mobile Services

BellSouth, Air2Web will provide corporate users remote access to data.

Communications company BellSouth Corp. and wireless platform provider Air2Web Inc. this week are announcing a partnership to deliver new corporate mobile services to BellSouth customers.

Based on Air2Webs Mobile Internet Platform software, the services will include remote access to e-mail, sales data, inventory levels, shipping status, stock quotes, weather forecasts and other data corporate customers might require.

The move comes amid a tough spell for wireless Internet service providers. OmniSky Corp. and Arch Wireless Holdings Inc. this month filed for bankruptcy, and YadaYada Inc. went out of business.

Such consolidation in the market is par for the course as cell phone service providers and hardware manufacturers have been launching their own Internet services. Air2Web officials said they have had the most luck focusing on vertical markets.

Pockets of opportunity exist in areas such as county and state governments, universities, and large corporations, according to officials of Air2Web, in Atlanta.

Some of these customers may want to host the platform in-house, and BellSouth will help market the platform to them. But for the most part, the company plans to host services from its e-Business Centers, which is indicative of a recent push for carriers to become both data service and network providers.

"The overall interest in outsourced services is continuing to grow, especially in the large businesses," said Jai Menon, corporate office and executive vice president for applications, strategy and product innovation at BellSouth, also in Atlanta. "Were finding that customers are coming to the realization that they need at least some part of their services to be hosted."

Services will start next month in Atlanta and shortly thereafter in Miami, Menon said. Cingular Wireless will be offering expanded services based on the platform, officials said.

As part of the partnership, BellSouth is taking an equity investment in Air2Web of less than 10 percent.

The Air2Web platform uses an XML-based interface that enables developers to create applications that connect directly to back-end systems. Currently, Air2Web has 70 corporate applications deployed throughout the country, most of which cater to vertical markets.

BellSouth will also offer two-way services based on the Air2Web platform, officials said. That service will include applications that support Short Message Service phones, which represent most of the wireless market in Europe.