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Vodafone has released a new GPRS-based mobile data service providing business customers with remote access to their offices.

The Remote Access product allows business customers to connect to their corporate LAN to access e-mail, calendar and other business applications from remote locations. The service is available immediately to customers in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden and is scheduled for release in Ireland by early in 2003.

Because GPRS provides "always-on" connectivity, users of the service are charged for the amount of data they transfer, rather than the length of a call. "If the system is used sensibly, it may work out cheaper than dialling into the company's network from a landline in a hotel," a spokesperson for Vodafone told ElectricNews.Net.

Although the system could download large files, the spokesperson said that the charging structure for GRPS meant that most people would probably prefer to limit their use of the system to less data-intensive tasks.

Users will be able to connect to their corporate network from any country in which Vodafone has a GRPS network. Client laptops will have GPRS data cards installed, which connects to a wireless data server in their corporate headquarters.

The spokesperson said that Vodafone had worked with Cisco on the development of the product, particularly in regard to the security aspects. According to a Vodafone survey, the two main obstacles to the adoption of GPRS mobile data solutions in the past have been security concerns and the perceived complexity of installing the system.

Vodafone claims that the system can be installed on a client laptop in five minutes, by adding a PCMCIA card and installing the Remote Access software. Configuring the system on the company's LAN could take up to five hours and involves the installation of compressor hardware and the configuration of the Remote Access administration and monitoring software.

Remote Access is Vodafone's latest product offering - it launched its newest consumer data product at the end of October. The consumer-focused Vodafone Live service includes three branded handsets and multimedia messaging (MMS), which allows users to send and receive pictures, animations and audio clips via their phone as well as other content.

© Vodafone sales soar, losses fall

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