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Ford races toward wireless with Qualcomm

The giant automaker and the wireless technology company are adding wireless connections to cars and trucks, including mobile phone service.

    Ford Motor today announced a deal with Qualcomm to add wireless connections to automobiles, including mobile phone service.

    The new venture, tentatively called Wingcast, will be based in San Diego where Qualcomm has its headquarters, the companies said in a statement. Ford is expected to be the largest shareholder in the venture.

    Financial details were not disclosed.

    "This is an extremely significant move by Ford," said Jonathan Lawrence, an analyst at Dain Rauscher. "It is a real step change by Ford. The plan is to build shareholder value by partnering with another company to develop a new venture and spin it off in the future."

    Ford expects that more than 1 million of its new cars and trucks will be equipped with the products and services by the end of 2002, 3 million by 2003, and virtually all of its cars and trucks by the end of 2004. The level and depth of services will increase each year during that period.

    The announcement marks Ford's move into so-called telematics services, which include bringing phone, Internet, entertainment, navigation and safety services to vehicles, according to the company.