GPRS is go… but at a price



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1 April 2005 | 0

Now I know what you’re all thinking about GPRS: it’s another new mobile phone technology and another way for network operators to increase your monthly phone bill spend. And yes you would be right for thinking that.

For those who don’t know already know their WAP from their edible wraps, GPRS or General Packet Radio Services is a new mobile technology that will allow you to use a mobile phone, notebook PC or handheld device to access the Internet or your company Intranet wirelessly at speeds of up to 40Kbit/s. This is comparable to the speeds you get accessing the Internet over your dial-up connection on your desktop PC at home.

Despite soundings that Esat Digifone would be first to get a service up and running, Eircell Vodafone beat it to the punch and started to offer GPRS to its corporate customers from January 8th. Eircell Vodafone now plans to extend the service to consumers and small businesses this month and as of yet we have no idea as to what it plans to charge home customers for this new form of fast wireless Internet.




If the corporate offering is anything to go by, it will be expensive. Instead of charging business users by the second to access their e-mail, World Wide Web or company network, Eircell Vodafone will bill them by download — €5 for the monthly rental of the handset and €5 per Mbyte of data downloaded. 

For more intensive mobile users, there is a €20 rental fee option, but users are charged a reduced rate of €2 per Mbyte downloaded. This type of cost structure is fine for company employees who only use GPRS access to download text-based company e-mail messages and WAP pages. But it is becomes very expensive when employees use their GPRS phones to connect to notebooks or to download colour Web pages and audio content. 

The average Web page size is about 25Kbyte, download 50 pages in one session and a couple of MP3 music files, each averaging 4Mbyte, and the service suddenly start to get very pricey; €16 for the two music files alone on the most intensive user option.

Company credit controllers will need to educate themselves about the potential of new services like GPRS to generate hefty phone bills and those in charge of the purse strings will need to ensure that the employees that use these phones only use them to collect e-mail or to access business information that is not bandwidth hungry. Many companies will put checks in place to prevent employees from using GPRS to access multimedia-rich Internet content for their own amusement. 

Eircell Vodafone assures PC Live! that company managers will be able to put a cap on the download volumes. We await with interest to see what kind of pricing structure the company set for consumer GPRS.

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