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Vodafone Chief Executive Chris Gent
"Come and join this exciting future"
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Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 12:46 GMT
Vodafone plans mobile internet service

mobile phone A new generation of mobile phones is on the horizon

The world's largest mobile telecommunications firm, Vodafone AirTouch, has announced plans for a global internet service for its mobile phones.

The unexpected announcement is seen by some analysts as an attempt to bolster its bid for German rival Mannesmann.

Vodafone's mobile internet service is scheduled to be launched in July, in partnership with a raft of firms including IBM, Palm Computing, Sun Microsystems and phone makers Nokia and Ericsson.

Chief executive Chris Gent said: "As the only truly global mobile operator, Vodafone AirTouch's objective is to become the world's leading mobile multimedia operator."

The internet service will be customised to individual preferences for use in any country and in any language through all of Vodafone AirTouch's partner networks.

It is expected to offer a range of services from share trading and banking to flight bookings.

It will also offer e-mail, games, news and listings information.

Other partners include content and commerce services group, financial services firm Charles Schwab and travel company

Vodafone has mobile operations in 24 countries and 35 million subscribers worldwide.

Psion signed up

British company Psion, maker of hand-held personal digital organisers and the Epoc software to run smart mobile phones, has also become a strategic partner and will help develop the technology needed for the service.

The speed with which the pact was put together was highlighted by the fact that Psion was signed up so late overnight that it had to announce a separate strategic partnership with Vodafone for mobile Internet solutions.

Psion has set up a consortium called Symbian to develop its software as the standard for the next generation of hand-held devices.

David Levin, chief executive of Psion, said: "We see this alliance as a key part of Psion's mobile internet strategy."

Mannesmann outmanoeuvred

Analysts said speed with which the pact was put together was seen as a means of outmanoeuvring its German bid target Mannesmann by showing that it is seizing an important growth opportunity.

Vodafone used the announcement to urge shareholders in Mannesmann to accept its hostile takeover bid for the company.

"We are opening a new chapter in the development of the internet and invite Mannesmann shareholders to join us in adding a fourth W to the World Wide Web," Mr Gent said.

"From now on it will be the World Wide Wireless Web."

The board of Mannesmann has so far rejected Vodafone's bid, but the UK company is hoping shareholders will eventually accept the deal.

The board must present its defence document to shareholders before the end of the week.

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See also:
21 Oct 99 |  Business Basics
The Telecom Revolution
05 Jan 00 |  Business
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23 Dec 99 |  Business
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