The long-awaited GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) high-speed network technology for mobile communications received its UK unveiling with demonstrations from both BT Cellnet and Vodafone at the Networks Telecom 2000 conference.

GPRS is a technology that enables mobiles to remain permanently connected to the Internet and transmit data at five to 10 times the speed of current rates.

BT Cellnet is working in partnership with Motorola and Cisco to develop its GPRS product and service line, which will initially only be for corporate users.

“The great thing is that GPRS is billed by download, not billed by time, which makes it more cost effective. It costs about £1.50 per person per day, and for that, you get about 66Mbits per month,” a BT spokesman said.

The spokesman added that GPRS data cards for PCs and PDAs will be available on the market in “a couple of weeks.”

BT showed off its PocketNet Office, which will allow business users to access the Internet, a corporate intranet, e-mail and LAN (Local Area Network) files over GPRS mobile devices. The service is aimed at large organisations, but BT is hoping to have GPRS service available to the general consumer by the end of this year.

Vodafone has partnered with Ericsson to develop a phone for launch by January 2001, which will also be targeted at corporate users.

A representative for Vodafone told PC Advisor: “The handset will have up to four channels and run at 48Kbps, which is the same as a [standard] modem.”

BT Cellnet also showed off a PDA with GPRS. The BlackBerry handheld, co-branded by BT Cellnet and Canadian company Research In Motion , is also expected to launch by the end of the year.