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Business BlackBerry cheaper up-front

Companies that outfit workers with the pagers won't have to pay hefty up-front fees under a new pricing plan launched by wireless carrier Motient.

Businesses that outfit workers with Research in Motion's BlackBerry pagers won't have to pay hefty up-front fees under a new pricing plan launched Monday by wireless carrier Motient.

Instead of going to Motient for airtime and then to Qualcomm's Wireless Knowledge for wireless e-mail software and servers, businesses can get everything from Motient. The company now sells Wireless Knowledge software, which allows for access to servers that Wireless Knowledge operates, according to Dan Croft, Motient senior vice president.

The change means businesses can avoid a $130 per-user, up-front Wireless Knowledge fee to license Outlook servers and software for BlackBerry pagers. Under the new pricing model, the fee--paid to Motient--is spread out over the life of the service contract.

Analysts say rivals such as Research In Motion and start-up Good Technology will be under pressure to offer similar deals. The software and servers from these companies create instant access to Microsoft Outlook e-mail, contacts and calendar items.

Other carriers such as Sprint PCS could also start selling the software, Wireless Knowledge Vice President Jeff Ross said. He declined further comment.

Currently, businesses that use RIM technology have to pay some up-front costs to the company, such as $3,000 for a copy of BlackBerry Enterprise Service for Microsoft Exchange. They also have to pay a per-person fee if more than 20 employees use the service. A RIM representative did not immediately return calls for comment.

Motient sells three BlackBerry plans, including some that use RIM and Wireless Knowledge software. Product Manager Terri Villarreal said Motient would continue to sell both services. She said she's not worried that one plan's price undercuts the other.

"I'm going to get my airtime whether they are using (RIM) or if they are using Wireless Knowledge," she said.