Research in Motion Ltd. and Verizon Wireless last week introduced the first BlackBerry handset to run on the carrier's high-speed Evolution Data Optimized network.
Dubbed the BlackBerry 7130e, it is also the first BlackBerry that can work not just as a phone and e-mail device but also as a cellular modem for a laptop computer.
The BroadbandAccess Connect service allows for data download speeds of 400 to 700K bps on the EvDO network, which covers some 171 metropolitan areas in the United States, according to Verizon Wireless officials in Bedminster, N.J.
The service will cost $15 per month on top of any Verizon Wireless BlackBerry voice and unlimited data plan of $79.99 or more or $30 per month with the purchase of a BlackBerry data-only plan.
Beefing up the data download features of its cellular network to fight the power of local wireless networks has been a key focus of Verizon Wireless. It is the only major carrier to run attack advertisements against the Wi-Fi WLAN (wireless LAN) standard. Customers sold on EvDO say that, geographically, cellular networks are much more readily available than Wi-Fi is.
"I'd rather pay a flat fee, and now I'll have access essentially everywhere I go rather than be subject to the uncertainty of what might be found from some random hotel, business or coffee shop," said Christopher Bell, president and chief technology officer of Shopping Syndicate LLC, in Los Angeles, who uses both a BlackBerry and an EvDO modem in his laptop.
And while RIM does offer a Wi-Fi BlackBerry, "I think all this ultrahigh broadband and Wi-Fi [publicity] is the most disingenuous hype that I've seen since I've been in this industry," said Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-CEO of RIM, in Waterloo, Ontario.
Meanwhile, RIM continues to fight a legal battle with NTP Inc., a patent holding company in Arlington, Va., that sued RIM for patent infringement in 2001. At this point both companies are waiting on a U.S. District Court injunction that threatens to shut down BlackBerry service in the United States. At the same time, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has indicated that it may reject the disputed patents.