"BT Cellnet said on Friday its Internet arm had signed up a throng of new partners and aims to double its subscriber base this year as it prepares to do battle in Britain's mobile Internet market.
"BT Cellnet, Britain's leading mobile Internet operator, said its Genie start-up had attracted more than 500,000 portal customers in its first 10 months and hopes to be among the top five Internet Service Providers in Britain by the end of 2000.
"By the end of this year we expect to have 600,000 dial-in customers and approaching one million portal customers. Growth is exceeding 3,000 new customers each day," Genie General Manager Brian Greasley said at a presentation.
"As part of its Internet drive, BT Cellnet -- Britain's second largest mobile operator -- said it would kick off its first generation of Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) phones next week which will provide more sophisticated data from the Internet on cellphones.
"With WAP, customers will be able to do anything from read their e:mails to check the weather forecast or hunt down the nearest cinema or Indian restaurant on their mobile phones.
"WAP will be followed by the launch of a general package radio service (GPRS) -- which will deliver information five to 10 times quicker than current networks -- this summer and the even faster UMTS standard within two years.
"BT Cellnet, which is owned by British Telecommunications Plc, currently faces little rivalry in the mobile Internet market but analysts say competition is set to get fierce this year as rivals step up their own operations.
"Earlier this month, Britain's leading mobile operator Vodafone Plc unveiled its own global mobile Internet platform after signing up an impressive array of partners.
"Meanwhile, Britain's third largest mobile operator Orange, owned by Germany's Mannesmann , set up its first generation of WAP phones late last year but analysts say it has been crippled by a shortage of handsets.