Cognito expands into Internet email

Talks up takeover opportunities

A nationwide wireless data network that has been profitable since 1994 and made profits of circa £1.5 million last year bucks industry trends completely. Cognito has managed just that -- and now it has launched an Internet email service for its customers. Cognito uses proprietary technology -- including its own Messager terminals -- to provide fixed-cost data services to a number of Blue Chip companies, including Cable & Wireless, Granada, Kenco and Xerox. The new system, which went live yesterday, allows email messages of 11,000 characters to be exchanged between Messager users and standard Internet email accounts. That's roughly 100 times bigger than SMS (Short Text Message) messages handled by GSM phones. The USP for Cognito is that it can provide a complete turnkey wireless data solution to end users. Not only does it manufacture the Messager terminal but has also succeeded in reducing the cost of its base stations down from £40,000 to £5000. Its technology looks tame when compared to the high data speeds soon to be offered by the likes of Orange with GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and Internet browsing via WAP protocols. Cognito claims it can offer reliable wireless data communications covering around 95 per cent of the UK right now. Managing director Richard Harris freely admits that makes his company an ideal target for a takeover. Most observers speculate that Cognito's specialist integration skills -- it wrote the base station software using Linux -- make it attractive to any company wishing to break into the wireless data arena. It would even make an excellent testbed for WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) offerings since WAP is designed to work over ANY wireless network -- even one as slow as Cognito. Baring an outside acquisition Cognito is looking to expand -- possibly by exporting the system to third world countries. Harris estimated that at current prices the whole of the UK could be covered for around £1 million in terms of hardware costs. Another possibility is that Cognito will work more closely with GSM networks. It has already co-operated with Cellnet to allow SMS messages to be exchanged with its Messager terminals. ®

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