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Secure wireless e-mail promised for office

Three telephone service providers say they have created wireless messaging services secure enough for use by corporations and their mobile work forces.

Three telephone service providers are dressing up their wireless messaging services for introduction into the corporate world.

The three--Sprint, its cellular division Sprint PCS and Cingular Wireless--say they have created wireless messaging services that are secure enough for use by corporations and their mobile work forces.

The new services, two of which were launched Monday, are expected to put pressure on Research in Motion, the maker of the popular Blackberry wireless paging devices that now dominate the wireless corporate e-mail market with approximately 289,000 subscribers. Most are corporate clients, among whom the devices have the nickname "Crackberry" because of their addictive nature.

But Blackberry needs an expensive server installed on a company's computer system. Both Sprint PCS and Cingular Wireless's corporate wireless e-mail offers do not. Instead, the carriers let their own telephone networks do nearly all of the work a server would normally do.

"IT managers don't have to buy the gear," said Bill Nguyen, founder of Seven, a wireless software company that deals with both the Sprint PCS and Cingular Wireless offerings. "They don't have to buy PC Server or Blackberry Enterprise Server."

Also, RIM users need to buy a pager built by RIM. The new corporate wireless e-mail offerings from Sprint, Sprint PCS and Cingular Wireless, on the other hand, will work on most handsets.

A RIM representative could not be reached for comment.

Sprint and Sprint PCS are the most aggressive of the top six carriers to go after the corporate wireless e-mail market.

On Monday, Sprint PCS introduced "Business Connection," a wireless e-mail service that lets anyone get access to Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes e-mails, contacts or calendar information through any Sprint device. Even though the service runs on the Sprint PCS wireless network, new users can be added and accounts managed by a company's IT staff, a Sprint PCS spokesman said.

Cingular Wireless is expected to introduce a similar wireless messaging service, with new security measures such as virtual private networks, in the next few weeks, a Cingular Wireless spokesman said.

The carrier already offers Xpress Mail, which costs $10 a month and lets customers read, write and reply to Notes or Outlook e-mails using Cingular handsets, a Cingular Wireless spokesman said.

Sprint on Monday unveiled a service called Sprint Enterprise IM, which IT managers can install on a corporate computer system and which is aimed at mobile work forces. It lets customers send instant messages, up to 160 characters in length, from personal computers to Sprint cell phones.