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Nextel taps Air2Web for custom features

The wireless provider adds more ammunition to its ongoing push into the market to sell customized phone service to businesses.

Nextel Communications added more ammunition Wednesday to its ongoing push into the market to sell customized phone service to businesses.

The nation's fifth-largest wireless operator is now selling wireless software from Air2Web, Nextel said Wednesday. Air2Web makes software that lets businesses customize phone networks for either workers or customers. For instance, Air2Web software lets UPS customers use cell phones to track packages as they are shipped.

"We haven't hidden our intent to move strongly into enterprise; we have a very significant focus on that," said Ernie Cormier, Nextel vice president of enterprise solutions. "Data is a very important piece of it. But we are still an integrated voice and data company."

Most wireless carriers are struggling to find new ways of making money. Some, like Nextel, are offering businesses a way to customize their own networks.

Jupiter Media Metrix wireless analyst Joe Laszlo said these customized phone networks might help a wireless carrier keep customers longer. These networks take time and money to develop--plus they only work on the carrier's network.

"A customer who has a semi-customized data application that runs on one network won't leave as soon as someone who is just a voice customer," he said.

For the past year, Nextel has been adding new services that involve sending data between cell phones. For instance, Nextel announced a partnership with Research in Motion, which sells the BlackBerry device. The deal, at the time, added a new type of e-mail component to Nextel's voice services.

Nextel also partnered in December with Long Island City, N.Y.-based Aleph, which makes wireless software and hardware that lets cab companies and limousine services use the Internet to dispatch cars.