Microcell, Ericsson, OZ.COM walk hand in hand down wireless road

A recent development agreement between Microcell Telecommunications Inc., Ericsson and OZ.COM may prove to the mobile Internet space that, like Dorothy, we are not in Kansas anymore.

OZ.COM recently announced the formation of OZ Canada through the acquisition of a company recently established by Microcell Capitol II, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Microcell and Ericsson. According to OZ.COM, OZ Canada will function as an advanced application development centre for GPRS and third-generation (3G) wireless networks.

Gilles Lapierre, vice-president and general manager of OZ Canada, said that Ericsson and Microcell were planning to build a set of applications that matched what OZ had, in terms of future evolution.

“They proposed and we agreed that it would be a good idea to join forces and work together,” Lapierre said.

Within the Microcell contract, according to OZ.COM, OZ Canada will provide Microcell with development and consulting services, and the integration of value-added services into wireless PCS services using OZ.COM’s mPresence solution for the next three years. OZ.COM said the products and services developed through this agreement will be used by Microcell i5, the Internet subsidiary of Microcell Telecommunications.

Francois-Charles Sirois, president and chief operating officer of Microcell i5, said Microcell and Ericsson had a previous deal to do joint development on mobile Internet applications.

“When we saw OZ, we decided to merge OZ with the division we had created with Ericsson,” Sirois said. “I think it is very important to get some partners like this that are very close to us to develop applications towards our needs and really in line with where we want to go. That is why we decided to go forward with the investment in OZ.”

The agreement will see OZ Canada assume US$15 million in combined development agreements from Microcell Labs Inc. and Ericsson, and will give Microcell a nine per cent share in OZ.COM. Ericsson’s total share in OZ.Com increases to 20 per cent on a fully diluted basis.

Attempting to take the lead toward third-generation (3G) technology, Microcell Connexions, the network company within Microcell Telecommunications, announced it had completed the first end-to-end wireless packet data call using GPRS technology.

Rajiv Pancholy, president and chief operating officer of Microcell Connexions, said the call was made using a laptop connected to a GPRS-enabled handset, and was conducted over Microcell’s wireless network. Microcell’s network is based on the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM).

Pancholy explained that GPRS is a 2.5 generation technology that is “always on” and can reach speeds of up to 115 Kbps.

“Always on means that your device is actually communicating with whatever set of services without you the user ever having to intervene,” Pancholy said. “(However) in reality you will see speeds somewhere around 50 Kbps. But from an end-user perspective, the experience is going to be vastly superior to what you see from a home dial-up, for example.”

He said that there will be big changes ahead as wireless technology moves into its third generation, but added that he is also excited by what’s happening right now.

“I tend to be more excited about 2.5G than 3G simply because 2.5G is here today,” Pancholy said. “You can do a whole gamut of interesting things even before you get 3G speeds. I think we are in for some fun stuff and some real cool stuff.”

Pancholy said Microcell plans to deploy GPRS technology nation-wide by early Q2 2001.