Verizon Wireless is hoping to appeal to the international business traveler -- a customer segment that it may have struggled to attract previously -- with a new BlackBerry designed to work around the world.
The BlackBerry 8830 is similar to the 8800 sold by AT&T but overcomes a shortcoming inherent in Verizon Wireless' network. Verizon Wireless uses CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology, which is incompatible with GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), the mobile standard used in most countries around the world. The 8830 works on both CDMA and GSM networks, so users can make phone calls and send and receive e-mail in almost any country.
Verizon Wireless already offers two other phones and a PDA (personal digital assistant) that operate on both CDMA and GSM networks.
The 8830 could help both Verizon and Research In Motion (RIM), the BlackBerry maker, stave off increasing competition. Verizon will face a new and potentially significant rival when AT&T soon begins selling Apple's iPhone. While the iPhone, which will operate on GSM networks around the world and is hotly anticipated by users, is expected primarily to appeal to consumers, AT&T recently decided to also market it to business customers.
The 8830 should also help RIM tap into Verizon Wireless's large customer base as it battles against Microsoft Corp.'s recently introduced Windows Mobile 6.0, the mobile phone operating system that targets business users.
The phone supports Verizon Wireless' high-speed EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) data network and GSM's slower GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) data service when roaming. It comes with a media player, MicroSD card slot for added memory, speakerphone and Bluetooth wireless connectivity.
Verizon Wireless locks the phones so that users can't simply remove the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card, which enables use of GSM networks, and insert another from a different operator. Since operators often subsidize the cost of phones, they usually lock them. But users can pay third parties, such as rival carriers or independent businesses, to unlock phones in order to use a SIM card from another operator. Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Brenda Raney said she didn't know if that will be possible on the 8830.
The 8830 will cost US$300 after a US$100 rebate, with a 24-month contract. Users who sign up for voice and data plans up at the time of purchase can knock the price down another US$100. AT&T is selling the 8800 online for US$300 with a two-year contract.
Verizon Wireless customers who sign up for Global BlackBerry service, which provides unlimited e-mail in the U.S., Canada and more than 60 other countries, have a choice of fees: US$65 a month with a voice plan or US$70 without. In addition, users can sign up for a voice plan and pay based on how much data they use. One megabyte of data costs US$20.
Customers can buy the phone through Verizon Wireless' business sales channel starting May 14 and in Verizon Stores on May 28.
(John Blau in Dusseldorf contributed to this report.)