Business email services squeeze BlackBerry

Operators keen for slice of pie

The major cellcos are always keen to increase their penetration of the enterprise market, and they recognize that wireless email is the most promising starting point, since most large companies are building their mobile strategies around an initial deployment of mail. This trend has, of course, given RIM BlackBerry its commanding position in the US corporate space, but many of the new operator moves to snatch a piece of this business are focused on other software partners, raising the prospect of a fragmentation of this sector.

Visto and Intellisync are two push email providers that are focused on delivering turnkey solutions to carriers, rather than marketing directly to the enterprise. The latter is at the heart of Verizon Wireless’ latest attempt to improve its business base, by offering new bundles of data services on its rapidly rolling out 3G network, the most advanced in the US, running on CDMA EVDO.

Verizon will offer a new BroadbandAccess service on EV-DO for $79.99 a month, supporting average data rates of 400Kbps-70Kbps and bursts of 2Mbps in selected markets. Included in the options are the Intellisync push email service, although Verizon will also support BlackBerry PDAs on its network for $49.99 a month with unlimited data. However, it aims to provide a superior offering through Intellisync for those companies not wedded to BlackBerry software. This will include Wireless Sync Workgroup, which offers push email, calendar and personal information to as many as 20 users and can synchronize between PCs running Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Domino, and the Palm PDA or smartphone.

The Wireless Sync Enterprise Server provides the same services for larger enterprises with thousands of users. It also offers device management tools, including the ability to disable handsets if they are lost or stolen via over-the-air software commands. Meanwhile, Visto is providing the tools for two new enterprise services focused on push email, from Nextel in the US and SFR in France.

Visto is powering the Nextel Mobile Email Enhancement service, which the carrier claims is the first email service for Java handsets with full synchronization. Pricing for the service begins at $15 a month for a standalone offering with 2Mb of data access; $20 a month for the basic service plus 120 multimedia messages, unlimited text messaging and wireless web browsing; and $30 per month for the mid-level package plus unlimited data access.

Nextel explained that small business customers could download and install the Nextel Desktop Assistant to use the service, while large enterprise customers should use Visto's Mobile Enterprise Service, which Nextel is providing at no charge. SFR will adopt Visto’s Mobile 5 with ConstantSync platform, which allows users to receive email, calendar updates and contact changes in real time, and fully encrypted.

Earlier this year, Visto was awarded a global contract by Vodafone to provide push email solutions, which are currently rolled out in Finland (Elisa), Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain. While such offerings will not unseat BlackBerry from companies that have already invested in its server-based system, they may provide a more cost effective and feature rich alternative for new adopters and smaller enterprises.

Copyright © 2004, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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