EarthLink, which has been offering wireless data service for the past couple of years, said it plans to debut a product that will bundle e-mail, voice calling and Internet browsing on a handheld device.
EarthLink claims to be the first ISP to offer a mobile voice and data service. Cellular carriers have recently been adding data services to their core voice services. EarthLink claims to have an advantage over these, because it has experience in the more-complicated area of wireless data products. EarthLink's new service will include full Internet browsing and e-mail capabilities along with voice.
The new bundle will feature a handheld device with integrated data and voice capabilities, a standard Qwerty keyboard and personal digital assistant (PDA) functionality that allows people to access data from a calendar or address book while on a voice call.
EarthLink has not selected a hardware provider for the handheld, but company spokesman Dave Blumenthal said that it is considering using BlackBerry e-mail devices made by Research In Motion.
"BlackBerry is one of the most logical options," he said. "But we are considering equipment from other suppliers, too."
Blumenthal said the company currently uses BlackBerry devices to deliver its data-only service, along with gear from PalmOne.
The ISP has not disclosed which cellular carrier it will work with to deliver the new service.
EarthLink is targeting small-business customers and consumers with the bundle and service. Initially, it plans to woo existing EarthLink mobile customers who are using the data-only service to the new plan.
The bundled service will also use EarthLink's SpamBlocker, which is already part of the data-only mobile EarthLink service. The company plans to market its spam protection as a key differentiator from other mobile services. It predicts that mobile spam will soon become a problem for users of converged devices, as wireless access becomes more commonplace. EarthLink and several other ISPs have been.
EarthLink will officially announce prices, service plans and device suppliers for the EarthLink Wireless e-mail and voice service in May, Blumenthal said.