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Wireless initiative bundles services

Cable and phone companies are battling it out to bring surfers fast, reliable Net access. Now, chipmaker Intel is stepping up to promote wireless services for business globe-trotters.

Cable and phone companies already are battling it out to bring surfers fast, reliable Net access. Now, chipmaker Intel (INTC) is stepping up to promote wireless services for business globe-trotters.

Intel yesterday announced a coalition of telephone, mobile phone, hardware, and software companies that will bundle their services to give PC users a simple wireless connection to the Net or corporate intranets.

On board for the coalition, dubbed Mobile Data Initiative, are the following: Pacific Bell, Microsoft, Toshiba, IBM, Nokia, and the North America GSM Alliance, which set a digital mobile phone standard used by 239 international operators.

"Many mobile workers spend a significant amount of time and effort looking for ways to connect their notebook PC to a telephone line," Stephen Nachtsheim, vice president and general manager of Intel's mobile and handheld group, said in a statement. "The initiative seeks to provide business users with access to data anywhere, anytime, without compromising notebook PC performance and capability."

Wireless Net access has gained popularity in rural areas of the country, such as Alaska, where the telephone infrastructure is underdeveloped. But Intel's Mobile Data Initiative targets the "road warrior"--business travelers who live out of a suitcase and need dependable online service.

"These are the most desirable Net users because they will pay for premium services. But if you're trying to reach this elite market, they will want customer service and no busy signals," said Peter Krasilovsky, an online analyst for Arlen Communications. Krasilovsky estimates that road warriors account for five percent of all Internet users.

"They are excellent candidates for bundled Internet and cellular services," Krasilovsky added. "I expect to see content, such as Barron's or the Wall Street Journal, entering these bundles too."

Also targeting remote workers with their "roaming" services are Internet service providers such as iPass, Sprint, AT&T WorldNet, UUNet, and IBM.

Most roaming services let customers access email and the Net through an 800 number. iPass provides local dial-up numbers for roaming so companies can avoid hefty bills associated with toll-free access.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.