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Paging firms agree to data standards

A group of leading paging and wireless messaging companies agree to use a single standard for sending Internet content to their subscribers.

A group of leading paging and wireless messaging companies agreed today to use a single standard for sending Internet content to their subscribers.

Most paging companies already maintain some kind of information services, allowing their customers to get news headlines, sports scores or other information over their systems.

But the new agreement will allow content companies to provide information in a single standard format for all of the participating messaging companies.

"This makes it easier for content providers to get information to the users," said Marc Kuykendall, a spokesman for SkyTel. "For customers, this should open up a big wide world of information services."

Analysts said the transmission of news and entertainment content over pagers and other wireless messaging services will grow quickly in the next several years, boosted by having a single common platform.

"Information services could be the cornerstone of the wireless messaging industry in the future," said Darryl Sterling, an analyst for the Yankee Group. "These standards should accelerate the development of this market."

Pagers aren't the only wireless devices that are getting the Internet religion. Cell phone makers are also moving toward putting more Net friendly features in their products, such as email and even Web micro-browsers.

Paging technology is also moving into other devices, such as cell phones and personal digital assistants, or PDAs. Motorola recently released a chip that combines processing power with paging functions, in a move to push wireless messaging into products such as Palm Pilots and notebook computers.

The eleven messaging companies that agreed on the standard today represent more than 30 million paging customers, or about 60 percent of users in the U.S. Equipment manufacturers Motorola and Glenayre Technologies also gave the standards a thumbs-up.

Several of the companies, such as Skytel, said their services already conform to the standards. Others will introduce products conforming to the agreement by early 1999.

Kuykendall said Skytel plans to have close to 80 content channels available to its customers by the end of the year.