Bell Atlantic Corp. will offer wireless Internet access to its mobile phone subscribers, joining Sprint PCS in the early race to exploit a new market with huge potential.
The new service, featuring access to e-mail and World Wide Web sites specially formatted for a mobile phone, is being launched Nov. 17 by Bell Atlantic Mobile in its East Coast markets.
It wasn't known whether the coverage area might be expanded to other regions after Bell Atlantic's recently announced partnership with Vodafone AirTouch Plc is completed. The Wireless Web service introduced in September by Sprint PCS is available in major markets across the country.
Bell Atlantic plans to charge $9.95 a month to add wireless Web access to any of its mobile calling plans. There will be no distinction between the minutes used for phone use or Web access.
By contrast, Sprint PCS offers a similarly priced package that adds 50 minutes of Web usage to any monthly calling plan, as well as 50 Web Updates, with information such as stock quotes.
The wireless Internet phones used by Bell Atlantic and Sprint can also double as a modem for a laptop computer with an attachment that is sold separately.
For now, Web browsing via wireless phones will be limited, compared with the way consumers access the Internet through personal computers. The new wireless services typically include news updates, stock quotes, phone listings and travel directions, as well as flight and weather information.
But despite the current limitations, the market for wireless data services with phones and other devices is expected to grow to $13.2 billion by 2003 from $1.8 billion this year, according to the research firm Yankee Group.