Corporate Hooks

Wireless: Telecom AT&T Wireless, NEC, Sprint woo business customers.

While camera phones and teen-focused messaging services have been the target of summer marketing campaigns, wireless carriers are not forgetting corporate customers.

Summer launches from AT&T Wireless Services Inc. and Sprint PCS Group include a corporate bent.

AT&T Wireless last week launched a wireless phone through a partnership with NEC America Inc. The NEC 515 High Definition Mobile handset is the first of a series and marks NECs return to the North American cell phone market after a two-year absence.

The quad-band GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service) hinged phone offers a 2.2-inch high-definition color display, multimedia messaging for several types of picture files, synchronization software from Pumatech Inc. and several features designed around Java support. The phone features a separate processor and 1MB of memory dedicated to Java downloads.

NECs software partnerships are focused on Java, too. The company teamed with Vuico LLC to provide wireless access to corporate data from the 515 phone. Vuicos GoWireless software is based on NTT Software Corp.s Bluegrid middleware. NTT, based in Tokyo, has strong ties with NECs Japanese offices as well as with AT&T Wireless. But NEC officials said Java was the reason to partner with Vuico rather than other wireless e-mail companies that might be better known in the United States but would require additional development work.

"Some of the better-known applications that are in the space dont run on Java," said Scott Spreen, vice president of product planning and business development at NECs Wireless Engineering division, in Irving, Texas. "In this case, for time to market, it made sense to have the client be Java-based."

Because the phone includes a high-resolution screen, NEC is touting its gaming capabilities more than its enterprise capabilities. Users have similar concerns over AT&T Wireless recent marketing. The companys mLife campaign is aimed largely at consumers, and the company has been fairly quiet about new corporate devices and services other than network expansion.

"Were on target to deploy EDGE [Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution] by the end of the year," said Ritch Blasi, a spokesman for AT&T Wireless, in Redmond, Wash.

Still, analysts say that the company maintains a good foothold with corporate customers.

AT&T Wireless was the first company to launch a one-rate calling plan for business travelers that included both long-distance and roaming in 1998. Other companies had offered one-rate long-distance plans in the past, but the roaming feature was key.

"AT&T historically has been strong within the enterprise markets," said Philip Redman, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in San Jose, Calif. "Coverage is the No. 1 reason for customers to pick a carrier now. Then price, then customer service and then fifth is the handset."

To that end, rival Sprint has launched an attack on AT&T Wireless, arguing that Sprint now has a larger coverage area in the United States than AT&T Wireless.

This is a marketing campaign directed at prospective business customers, and the company plans to back it up with new products later in the summer, according to Suzanne Lammers, a spokeswoman for Sprint, in Overland Park, Kan.

These products will include new security options for the companys Business Connection software for laptops and phones, as well as new corporate data access software, which will dovetail with the introduction of the G100 phone from Hitachi Ltd., which runs Microsoft Corp.s Pocket PC operating system and includes a QWERTY keyboard.

Meanwhile, to complement the rollout of its wide-area wireless network, Sprint last week announced plans to launch a public Wi-Fi wireless LAN access service.

Also due later this summer, the service will cover 800 locations, plus roaming agreements with other public Wi-Fi service providers. Customers will receive PCS Connection Manager software that lets them detect Sprint-compatible hot spots.

In addition, the company will focus on business customers that want to make Wi-Fi available to visiting customers and vendors, according to officials.