Mobile

Unlimited service ends for Palm.net

Customers subscribing to the Palm.net wireless service are going on a data diet as an all-you-can-eat plan comes to an end.

Subscribers to Palm's wireless service are going on a data diet as an all-you-can-eat plan comes to an end.

The Milpitas, Calif.-based handheld maker has announced changes to pricing plans for its Palm.net wireless data service. Starting Monday, new customers or those who are renewing the $39.99 plan will see the service change from unlimited monthly access to 1MB of data transfer per month and 10 cents for each additional kilobyte. Subscribers can also get 1MB of data for $34.99 and 8 cents for each additional kilobyte if they agree to a one-year commitment.

Subscribers who are already locked into a one-year contract will continue to get unlimited access at $39.99 until their contract ends. The service allows Palm's VII series and i705 devices to wirelessly access e-mail and the Web.

"The plan change reflects additional costs from our wireless service provider, so we are more or less just passing it on," Palm spokesman Jim Christensen said. The Palm.net service uses Cingular Wireless' Mobitex wireless paging network to send and receive data.

Christensen added that only 4 percent of Palm.net subscribers use more than 1MB of data per month.

Representatives from Cingular Wireless did not return calls or e-mails seeking comments on price changes. Cingular Wireless is a joint venture between SBC Communications and BellSouth.

Complaints from some subscribers first started showing up on enthusiast sites such as PalmInfocenter. Alex Slawsby, an analyst with IDC, noted that despite the limited capabilities of the devices that use the wireless service, 1MB of data per month is not very much for subscribers. The Palm VII series and i705 have black-and-white displays and require people to input data using the handwriting tool instead of a keyboard.

Slawsby said that while more and more devices are using the higher-speed networks for wireless data communications, the slower and older Mobitex network has a loyal following because it has better coverage indoors than the newer networks.

"However, whether that loyal but smaller user base represents enough of a revenue opportunity to maintain and expand a network remains to be seen," Slawsby said.

A new Palm device, the Tungsten W, will be available in the first quarter through AT&T Wireless and will run on next-generation General Packet Radio Service networks. The Tungsten W is already shipping in Europe and comes with a color display and a built-in keyboard.