RIM’s Touts Wi-Fi BlackBerry As An iPhone-Killer For Enterprise

Priced to compete with the iPhone and offering a similar blend of cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity, the dual-mode BlackBerry 8820 is now available to U.S. customers through AT&T, the company said Thursday.

Introduced in July, the 8820 is the first BlackBerry to provide access to both public and private Wi-Fi networks, as well as cellular systems. It is now on sale at AT&T stores and on the AT&T Web site, at $349 for the device with a two-year service plan.


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RIM launched a Wi-Fi-only BlackBerry in February 2005. Now, BlackBerry loyalists can use their cellular service for voice calls and e-mail, and their corporate in-house wireless LAN or public Wi-Fi hotspots for e-mail and limited Web browsing.

Though it’s not the first Wi-Fi/cellular device to arrive on American shores, it is the first of the popular BlackBerry smartphones to offer both forms of connectivity. As such the 8820 is expected to be popular with enterprise customers accustomed to BlackBerry’s iconic design and ease of use — and to help blow open the long-anticipated, slow-to-arrive market for dual-mode handsets in this country.

“This is a cornerstone device in moving to a future vision where desk phones are replaced by dual mode cell phones,” said Ken Dulaney, VP for mobile computing at Gartner.

The big U.S. wireless carriers have not only refused to acknowledge the need for dual-mode smartphones for years, frustrating their business customers in the process, but have actively blocked the technology for fear of eroding their cellular business. Dual-mode phones, in theory, can shift seamlessly from cellular to Wi-Fi coverage when in range of a network, giving users access to free or less-costly voice-over-IP service.

Indeed, the 8820 is Wi-Fi enabled only for data; BlackBerry maker RIM said it will leave it up to carriers to choose whether to equip the phones with voice-over-IP capabilities.

But the arrival of the iPhone, the new dual-mode BlackBerry, and Wi-Fi equipped handsets from Nokia, the world’s No. 1 mobile phone vendor, Samsung, and HTC signals a a new era in corporate telephony — and may well force the Big Four U.S. carriers to begin allowing dual-mode devices to run over their networks.

The new BlackBerry means that “enterprise managers with established Wi-Fi-based LAN infrastructure now have another option at their disposal when deploying handheld devices,” said Carmi Levy, senior vice president for strategic consulting at AR Communications.

After trials in Seattle, T-Mobile has already begun the national roll-out of its dual-mode “HotSpot@Home” service over two phones, the Nokia 6086 and Samsung t409. In addition, Sprint Nextel last week began selling the “Airave,” a femtocell — or small home base station — that boosts signals indoors and effectively turns conventional cell phones into dual-mode devices by routing calls over the users’ existing broadband Internet connection.

Capable of handling three voice calls at the same time, the Airave retails for $49.99 plus a monthly charge for unlimited calling (in addition to the customer’s existing service plan) of $15 for individuals and $30 for families. Sprint said it will release a more powerful, 12-call version of the femtocell designed for small businesses later this year.

Via Yahoo

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