3GSM : T-Mobile pushes int’l, ‘seamless’ Wi-Fi services

International business travelers seeking wireless broadband connectivity on both sides of the Atlantic could benefit from a new service launched by the T-Mobile subsidiaries of Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG.

The new Wi-Fi offering allows T-Mobile customers to access — with the same user name and password — more than 4,100 hotspots in the U.S. and another 700 in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K., T-Mobile International AG & Co. KG said Tuesday at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes.

T-Mobile’s wireless broadband service, based on the 802.11b standard, ranges in price from US$10 for a 24-hour day pass to US$40 per month on a month-to-month plan.

In Cannes, T-Mobile also revealed plans for a multi-network service that will allow users to roam “seamlessly” across three different wireless networks: General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) and Wi-Fi.

The hand-over between the networks will be automatic, according to T-Mobile International Chief Executive Officer Rene Obermann.

The German operator is collaborating with Cisco Systems Inc., IBM Corp. and Intel Corp. in a pilot project that will enable students, initially at Frankfurt University in Germany and later at several other European universities, to roam across all three wireless broadband networks.

For the pilot, T-Mobile will provide the connectivity, offering students and professors bundled fees, which will include Wi-Fi vouchers for the operator’s hotspots and preferential fees for GPRS and WCDMA networks. The operator will likely announce prices at the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany, next month, according to Obermann.

Cisco will provide the wireless LAN infrastructure, while IBM will furnish the notebooks, using Intel’s Centrino mobile technology.

The Frankfurt pilot, which begins in April, is expected to last several months, according to T-Mobile. A wider roll-out is planned from July 2004 to cover universities in Austria, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and the U.K., in addition to Germany. In total, the group is targeting more than 100 universities.

A key goal of the university initiative is to test every piece in the communications chain, ranging from the wireless infrastructure and devices to content and the customer experience, T-Mobile said.

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