Vodafone signs deal with PC makers

The world's largest mobile phone company, Vodafone Group PLC, today announced it has signed agreements, with computer equipment suppliers to have its GPRS (general packet radio services) settings preinstalled on their hardware.

Global agreements have been signed with Dell Computer Corp., Hewlett Packard Co., Fujitsu-Siemens Ltd., IBM Corp., Toshiba Corp. and Psion Teklogix (the largest operating division of Psion Plc) to provide notebooks, PDAs (personal digital assistant) and tablet PCs under Vodafone's packet-based wireless service in Europe.

The company launched its Vodafone Remote Access earlier this month.

Deployed over its GPRS data network and currently available in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden, the Remote Access service promises travelling enterprise users a secure and easy way to connect to their corporate LANs so as to access their email, calendars and other business-specific applications. Users are charged for the amount of data they download rather than the time they spend online, but the charging structure for GPRS is still too high for many users.

With the various agreements in place, for which individual terms were not disclosed, users will be able to purchase devices that have been tested, configured and supported by their supplier and that are ready to run over the Vodafone Remote Access service, the company said. A survey released by the company earlier this month showed the two main obstacles for GPRS takeup were security concerns users on and the complexity of installing the actual system.

The first problem has been dealt with by computer maker IBM, which today announced the technology would be built into its range of ThinkPad computers and claims to be the only company to offer a TCPA (Trusted Computing Platform Alliance) compliant embedded security chip, which provides secure remote access.

While the 'out of the box' GPRS system negates the installation problem as the system is ready to go as soon as the PC is set up.

Mobile phone operator O2 also has similar agreements in place, but as yet these are only open to large corporations.

Wendy Brewer contributed to this article.

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