Wireless Net Group Aims to Enlarge Possibilities

Expanding on an initiative begun in 1996, Intel and nine other companies have announced a new pact they hope will help bring easy-to-use and widespread wireless Internet technologies to the masses.

The Mobile Data Initiative Next Generation (MDI-ng) will take over where the original MDI left off, according to the group. The original work began in 1996 with Intel, L.M. Ericsson Telephone, IBM, Nokia and others, focusing on mobile computing via cell phones.

Now the newly energized group will expand on that work by developing standards that will remove common technical and market barriers to widespread wireless Internet use using personal digital assistants and many other devices.

The MDI-ng member companies are BT Cellnet, Dell Computer, France Telecom, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Motorola, Siemens Mobile, Sonera and Toshiba.

"Intel, working with other industry leaders, is committed to supporting the growing range of wireless devices from handsets to computers, so they all work together effortlessly, run applications that scale seamlessly and use services that automatically fit to any type of user and their chosen technology," said Rob Eckelmann, vice president and general manager of Intel Europe Middle East and Africa, in a statement. "This founding group brings together the leaders from all of the key areas -- equipment, content, networks and services -- to turn this vision of a truly sweeping wireless revolution into reality."

Alan Reiter, an analyst at Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing in Chevy Chase, Md., said today that the new group will greatly expand the original work of the MDI-ng by finding ways to expand wireless Internet use over a wide range of devices.

"Basically, Intel wants to sell chip sets," Reiter said. "It knows that standardization is generally good for vendors as well as consumers. It is also interested in fostering increasingly sophisticated applications so that it can sell increasingly sophisticated and profitable chips. So it is in Intel's interests to promote a robust and advanced wireless business around the world, everything from messaging" to audio and video, he said.

Companies such as Intel, IBM and Motorola are large enough and powerful enough to grow entire industries by stimulating the market and creating a demand for goods and services that haven't yet been created, Reiter said.

Other standards groups do exist, however, meaning that the lines in the marketplace are still being drawn, he said.

The group will look at standards compatibility, application scalability among devices, security, reliability and ease of use, as well as other issues. Additionally, the MDI-ng initiative will focus on packet-switched wireless networks, which will have a tremendous impact on wireless Internet subscriber usage because they allow users to always be online, without having to wait for a modem connection.

The collaborative effort is supported by the European-based Global System for Mobile (GSM) Association.

The MDI-ng will set up wireless industry meetings and workshops where service providers and suppliers can meet to discuss interoperability issues. Interoperability tests and technology overviews will be carried out to help guide the efforts of participating companies, industry standards bodies and the broader mobile services sector.

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