Verizon Wireless Unveils A BlackBerry For Americans Traveling Overseas - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications

Verizon Wireless Unveils A BlackBerry For Americans Traveling Overseas

The BlackBerry 8830 World Edition smartphone, which can automatically detect and switch between CDMA and GSM wireless networks, will be available next month.

Verizon Wireless is targeting the data-needy international business traveler with a BlackBerry phone that will operate seamlessly between wireless U.S. systems based on the CDMA standard and overseas wireless systems that use the GSM standard.

Announced Wednesday, the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition smartphone will be available next month.

Users of Verizon's U.S. CDMA network, which has consistently led reliability rankings, have often complained that their handsets don't operate in most overseas markets. The 8830 seeks to render those complaints moot. The device from Research In Motion operates on RIM's enterprise service network in overseas markets.

"The BlackBerry 8830 is built on an exciting new device platform that combines CDMA and GSM/GPRS roaming support with the latest in industrial design and functional innovations," said Mike Lazaridis, president and co- chief executive officer at RIM, in a statement.

The 8830 is offered at a variety of prices, with the cheapest being about $300 after a rebate and with a two-year contract commitment. The handset is being packaged with several service plans, and the most popular is expected to include a U.S. voice plan that starts at $40 a month and a Global BlackBerry service plan that starts at $65 a month. Roaming voice calls are charged at $1.29 and $2.49 depending on the country involved. There is also a "Pay-As-You-Go" feature available for $20 per Mbyte of usage. A Verizon spokeswoman said the firm has paid particular attention to establishing an international service network to assist subscribers in the use of the 8830. A Global Help Desk will be staffed by Verizon employees 24-hours-a day for assistance.

"We've found that people need support when they travel internationally," she said, noting that international callers and data users can be easily confused by the variety of networks and plans in use in different countries.

The 8830 can also use Verizon's BroadbandAccess high-speed data network.

Previously Verizon offered three handsets that switched between GSM and CDMA networks, but their relatively high price and complicated interface kept usage at a minimum. Those handsets utilized GSM networks provided by Vodafone Group PLC, which owns 45% of Verizon Wireless. Users had to manually switch their phones from GSM to CDMA networks in the older devices.

"The [8830] automatically senses the network for you," said the Verizon spokeswoman.

The 8830 will make its debut a few days before Apple's iPhone hits the market in June. The iPhone is scheduled for delivery in June by Verizon's rival AT&T's Cingular Wireless unit.

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