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BlackBerry aims to go Wi-Fi

Research In Motion is working to allow its BlackBerry devices to connect to Wi-Fi wireless networks, anticipating demand for the feature from its target corporate customers.

Research In Motion is working to allow its BlackBerry devices to connect to Wi-Fi wireless networks, anticipating demand for the feature from its target corporate customers.

With the gradually growing number of Wi-Fi wireless network installations in large businesses and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) trials on those networks, the Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM has been testing built-in Wi-Fi connectivity in its BlackBerry devices, the company confirmed Monday. The capability should be available sometime after spring of 2004.

"We're essentially aiming to extend the key benefits and competitive differentiators of BlackBerry to 802.11 environments," said a statement from Mark Guibert, vice president of corporate marketing for RIM. "There are a number of partnership and competitive considerations that influence how much detail we share, so we're not tipping our hand too much at this point in time."


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BlackBerry devices wirelessly send and receive data and voice calls over wide-area cellular networks. Supporting wireless transmissions over Wi-Fi would echo recent interest in the communications and networking worlds to combine cellular and Wi-Fi technologies. Data and voice can be exchanged more cheaply over Wi-Fi networks than cellular networks. Wi-Fi networks also allow for higher throughput speeds but have a shorter range than cellular networks.

RIM added voice capabilities to BlackBerry messaging devices last year.

Chipmakers and device makers have been anticipating the call to add Wi-Fi to portable devices and have already begun integrating the feature. Atheros Communications, Broadcom, Philips Semiconductor and Intel have announced plans to release low-power 802.11b chips specially designed for portable devices.

Dell, Hewlett-Packard, PalmOne and Toshiba, among others, have already added Wi-Fi capabilities to their devices.