Vodafone AirTouch Plc today announces that it has chosen Ericsson for the supply of infrastructure for its next generation network technology, GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) in the UK, the Netherlands and Greece. Set to bring customers high-speed data services and enhanced internet capabilities over existing digital GSM mobile networks, Vodafone AirTouch will begin to introduce GPRS from January 2000.

Giving mobile customers the ability to access services such as train timetables, receive detailed directions and local maps, and realise true home shopping on the move simply using their handheld devices, GPRS, which is particularly suited to WAP (Wireless Access Protocol), will introduce high-speed data to Web-based services, including the Vodafone Interactive services.

Vodafone UK, Libertel (The Netherlands) and Panafon (Greece) will be the first Vodafone AirTouch mobile networks to integrate GPRS in to their GSM networks, deploying the latest standard GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) technology from Ericsson. Benefiting from the synergy and close co-operation between the Vodafone AirTouch networks, the GSM-GPRS systems will be field trialled simultaneously in all three countries in early 2000 and are due to be commercially introduced in the autumn of next year.

"GPRS is very much a wireless internet building block which will support a wide range of information services and applications, including our Vodafone Interactive services, e-commerce, wireless office and lifestyle services at much faster rates than currently available," explained Peter Bamford, Chief Executive of Vodafone UK. "The simultaneous introduction of GPRS technology to the Vodafone AirTouch networks of Vodafone UK, Libertel and Panafon will not only offer our customers true wireless internet capability for the first time, but also GPRS roaming, enabling them to benefit from continuous high speed data services when they travel."

Enhancing the existing GSM networks and WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) services, GPRS is a data transmission technology operating at rates significantly faster than the current GSM rate of 9.6kbps and approaching the fastest fixed dial up speeds available, including ISDN. Applying packet switched, instead of traditional circuit switched techniques used in voice telephony networks, GPRS will revolutionise e-mail and information access for mobile customers, enabling them to be constantly connected to Vodafone Interactive or their office.

The introduction of GPRS to the Vodafone AirTouch networks will support a new breed of GPRS capable GSM mobile devices with WAP microbrowsers, making high speed mobile data applications like e-mail, intranet and content access a reality for customers. "The ease of use and high data speeds possible with GPRS mean that customers on the move will be able to access information that would normally only be available to them in the office or via their home PC," added Peter Bamford. "GPRS will bridge the gap between the future 3G network capabilities and current GSM mobile networks."

In addition, the Vodafone AirTouch companies, Vodafone UK, Libertel and Panafon are also working with Ericsson on new applications and services for consumers as well as corporate customers taking advantage of the unique capabilities of this new and innovative wireless data service.

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