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Nextel juices up BlackBerry device

Nextel Communications next month will start selling a BlackBerry with walkie-talkie features and a subscription plan with unlimited wireless Web access.

Nextel Communications said Monday that it will start selling a BlackBerry pager and a subscription with unlimited wireless Web access Dec. 2.

The $500 BlackBerry 6510 is the first pager of its kind that can use cellular telephone networks powered by the Integrated Dispatch Enhanced Network (IDEN) standard, which Nextel uses in its cell phone network. BlackBerry already makes pagers that use the world's most popular cell phone standard, Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) as well as a proprietary network run by Cingular Wireless.

The 6510 is the first BlackBerry pager to feature "Direct Connect," which turns phones into walkie-talkies that can communicate instantly over long distances. The pager will be available in select areas starting Dec. 2 and nationally beginning January, according to Greg Santoro, a Nextel Communications vice president.

Also on Dec. 2, Nextel will begin selling a subscription with a $50 monthly fee for unlimited access to Nextel's wireless Web network, he said.

"For the typical mobile professional who wants constant access to wireless e-mail, we found it important to add an unlimited access plan," Santoro said.

The moves by Nextel are meant to bolster its position as the leading provider of wireless services to businesses. The carrier is facing a stiff challenge from a new set of foes: wireless carriers. Sprint PCS, AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless, have all begun pushing new data services for business customers in a search for new revenue sources.

Research In Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry, has been the leading company in the battle to provide businesses with two-way wireless communications. But rivals Good Technology, Palm and Microsoft have been stepping up their efforts. Furthermore, lower-than-expected sales and delays in several product launches have weakened RIM's lead.