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ViAir lands Nextel

The wireless-infrastructure player backed by former Netscape Chief Executive Jim Barksdale lands its largest customer yet: wireless service provider Nextel Partners and its 6 million subscribers.

ViAir, the wireless-infrastructure player backed by former Netscape Chief Executive Jim Barksdale, landed its largest customer yet: wireless service provider Nextel Partners and its 6 million subscribers.

Reston, Va.-based Nextel is now offering ViAir's "wirelessinbox," which lets customers access up to 10 different e-mail accounts through a Web-enabled cell phone, the two companies announced Thursday.

The service, called "Nextel Mobile Email," will be offered free and as part of Nextel's premium service. About half of Nextel's 6 million customers use the premium service.

This is the first major U.S. carrier for ViAir, whose biggest backer is The Barksdale Group, the investment firm headed by Jim Barksdale, which jump-started ViAir by taking an $8 million stake in the company in May. Other investors include VeriSign's Chief Executive Stratton Sclavos and Inktomi co-founder Rob Guyton.

ViAir's other customers include Seattle-based DSL (digital subscriber line) provider Speakeasy.net, which has also been offering the wirelessinbox for free to its customers. But that company plans to charge a $2 fee in the future.

ViAir's chief competitors are Openwave Systems, the wireless giant that has locked up the wireless-browser market, and InfoSpace, the wireless Internet infrastructure company.

ViAir's Chief Executive Bruce Chatterley said ViAir offers direct access to e-mails, while Openwave and InfoSpace create a separate e-mail box for users to access their other accounts.