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Verizon cuts prices for wireless Net gear

The company is hoping to attract customers to wireless Internet access that is supposed to rival that of a dial-up connections.

Looking to lure customers onto its new wireless network, Verizon Wireless has discounted some of the equipment needed to access it.

Like other carriers, Verizon Wireless built the new network to keep pace with the demand for cell phone service; and it's now trying to sell new services on the network, such as wireless Internet access that is supposed to rival that of a dial-up connection. But so far analysts say Americans aren't using the wireless Web as much as carriers had hoped.

Verizon Wireless might be the first to start discounting some of the equipment needed to access their new wireless Web network, but Jupiter Research analyst Dylan Brooks believes other carriers will follow.

"It's really an inevitability as these carriers look out at billion-dollar networks that are 1 percent utilized," he said.

In the past carriers used large discounts to spur subscription sales, but the wireless industry cut back on that. While discounts still take place, the days of the nearly free cell phone in the United States are disappearing, Brooks said.

Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest wireless carrier, is offering a rebate of $50 on the $299 Sierra Wireless modem, and $20 off the $79 software and hardware package needed to ride the company's Express Network. The Express Network can download files at up to 144kbps, though the average user experience is between 40kbps and 60kbps.

To get the company's discounts, cell phone users must sign up before Sept. 30 for one or two years of unlimited access to the Express Network, which costs $99 a month. The Verizon Wireless promotion also offers one month of free, unlimited access to the network.

Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeff Nelson said the company's promotion, which it's calling the "Get Started Package," coincides with the Express Network's reach. About 70 percent of the country is covered by Verizon's Express Network, making it a big enough network to entice business users who travel nationwide, he said.

"We want to signal to users and smaller businesses that especially now is the time to take a taste," he said.

So far, other carriers say they aren't planning to offer discounts.

Sprint has not announced pricing for its new wireless network, which uses the same Qualcomm technology as the Express Network. A source said the network will launch sometime around Aug. 11.

Cingular Wireless' "Wireless Internet Express" service, which runs on its new cell phone network, charges by the amount of data downloaded. The cost ranges from $7 for 1MB of data, to $50 for 13MB.

AT&T Wireless' mMode wireless Web plan comes in three flavors. For $3 a month, users pay 2 cents for every kilobyte downloaded. For $8 a month, users get 1MB a month. For $13 a month, they get 2MB of data.

T-Mobile, also known as VoiceStream Wireless, sells 5MB of data for $19.99 a month, 10MB at $39.99 and 20MB at $59.99. A spokesman said Wednesday that the company has no plans yet to follow Verizon's lead.