The BlackBerry wireless email service will soon extend its reach in Europe thanks to a new deal between RIM, which makes the handheld devices, and BT's ex-mobile arm O2, neé BT Cellnet.

Users will soon be able to roam across O2's various wireless operators in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany, RIM spokeswoman Tilly Quanjer said yesterday, adding that other major European countries will likely be served soon.

The new arrangement broadens an agreement made last year between RIM and O2 (then BT Cellnet) to offer the service in the UK. Separate contracts have already been made with O2 subsidiaries in the Netherlands and Ireland and user trials are under way in Germany.

O2 said is has signed up about 100 corporate customers for BlackBerry since September, when it launched the commercial service, but would not say how many individual users those customers represent.

Both companies said pricing throughout Europe would likely be comparable to the model already in use in the UK, under which corporate clients pay a one-time cost of about £400 per wireless device, depending on how many units are purchased, plus £2,500 for server software, including licenses for the first 20 individual users. Monthly airtime fees per user amount to between £29 and £39.

This sounds hideously expensive, but for these devices the cash-frenzy days of the mobile boom are long gone. "We're not in the market to subsidise data hardware; those days are over," said Gordon, though he added that companies, while cautious at first, are not put off by the high price of the units. "They'll trial a number of handsets and then they'll order more."