The latest AirCard from Vancouver’s Sierra Wireless promises high speed for data access and complex applications, but at least one early adopter says there aren’t enough compelling reasons for widespread use.

Bell Mobility

is the latest carrier to offer the wireless network card from Sierra Wireless for customers of Bell’s new 1X network.

When inserted into a PDA or laptop, the AirCard 555 allows Canadian wireless users to access corporate data, e-mail, intranets — and each other — on what Bell Mobility claims is Canada1s first 1X voice and data network.

Different cards are designed for operation on different networks. AirCards are the same as cell phones, explains Greg Speakman, director of product management with Sierra Wireless. “”The phone you use on the Bell network won’t work on the Rogers network.””

The most significant difference is the speed the networks provide, adds Speakman.

“”It’s faster than what you get on a land line these days. The applications you run can be much more complete and more like your desktop application,”” he says.

The AirCard 555 is a wide area wireless network interface card that, in addition to delivering the benefits of a 1X network, can also work in both 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz CDMA digital, giving users access to Bell Mobility’s national digital coverage areas.

Bell Mobility’s 1X network is capable of supporting wireless data speeds of up to 144Kbps and 3cruising2 speeds of up to 86Kbps, which means users would be able to wirelessly download a page of text in three seconds or a digital colour photograph in five seconds.

Typically, a customer would use an AirCard much like they would a cell phone –through a carrier such as Bell. There is also little an organization has to do to manage the AirCards themselves, since the service is maintained by their provider.

Speakman says any organization with a mobile workforce would have use for AirCards to wirelessly provide Internet access to handhelds.

“”Historically it’s been public safety and field service,”” he says. “”Other scenarios would include police forces so that patrol cars could run licence plate numbers in real time.””

The 1X network is phase one of Bell1s 3G offering in that it supports both wireless voice and data, says Rebecca Mackinlay, associate director for Bell Mobility’s wireless data business. “”A lot of corporate customers will want to take advantage of this higher speed data access.””

While most of the road warriors at TD Waterhouse in Toronto carry Blackberry devices, made by Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion, Simon Barkla, TD’s associate vice-president of electronic channels, says some employees use the AirCard 510 for Bell Mobility1s digital CDMA network.

“”The card is amazing,”” he says. “”I get streaming quotes on my iPaq with it.””

Meanwhile, Barkla says TD Waterhouse customers are not, for the most part, using wireless technology to make investment purchases and trades. They are still more likely to do it in front of their desktop. When one considers the cost of a PDA and the AirCard on top of a lack of other compelling applications, he says, there’s not enough reason to make the investment yet.


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