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Mobile

Cingular pumps up wireless IM, e-mail

Company wants to make accessing e-mail, popular instant-messaging programs on a cell phone as easy as it is on a BlackBerry.

Cingular Wireless is bringing mobile e-mail to the masses.

The company, which is jointly owned by BellSouth and SBC Communications, on Monday announced that it will offer e-mail and instant messaging from America Online, Yahoo and MSN on cell phones.

Using a downloadable e-mail client powered by OZ Communications that converts the e-mail into a format that can be seen on the small screen, Cingular subscribers can access their personal e-mail from their phones. Unlike other e-mail services targeted at business customers that require expensive devices, such as Research In Motion's BlackBerry or Palm's Treo, Cingular customers will be able to use less-expensive cell phones from Cingular's current line-up.

Initially, the e-mail service will be available on many of the most popular Motorola devices, such as the V180, V220, V400, V551 and Razr V3. The Mobile IM service will also available on these phones, as well as others, like Nokia's 6230 and 6620 and Sony Ericsson's Z500 and S710a handsets. More compatible handsets for both the e-mail and IM service will be added soon.

Wireless users have been able to access Web-based e-mail on cell phones for a while, but the process has been cumbersome. By contrast, RIM's BlackBerry and services for smart devices like the Treo make accessing e-mail simple.

"E-mail and instant messaging are the 'killer apps' of the Internet," Jim Ryan, vice president of consumer data services for Cingular Wireless, said in a statement. "Now, with the new Mobile E-mail and Mobile IM applications from Cingular, we are enabling over 10 million of our existing customers with the ability to get to their existing e-mail and IM services through a set of easy-to-use clients--anytime, anywhere, from their existing phones. These are truly mass market solutions."

Cingular will not charge an additional monthly fee to use the new services. But customers must subscribe to a monthly wireless Internet package with different amounts of data usage available. Customers can pay kilobyte usage charges for Mobile E-mail, or a per-message charge for IM. Cingular has put together two packages, one of $9.99 per month, and the other for $19.99 per month, which it says should cover the needs of most of its customers.