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Interactive Traveller: Wireless Web, Take Two

Ever tried going on-line on a cell phone?If not, consider yourself lucky. It can be a painfully slow—not to mention expensive—experience. Now, however, a new technology called General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), which transmits data at high speeds over cellular networks, is set to make the wireless Web something you'll actually want to use.

The Advantages
Traditionally, wireless data speeds have come in at about 10 kilobits per second. GPRS devices download data at an average of two to five times faster, depending on how busy the network is, with peak speeds of 115 Kbps. What's more, the connection is always on, so you can get calls while you check the headlines. And because GPRS runs on the GSM network (the one most common abroad), if your device works on multiple frequencies you'll be able to use it worldwide.

How To Get It
GPRS is currently available from the service provider VoiceStream. AT&T and Cingular both have some of their own networks up and running; AT&T expects nationwide coverage by the end of 2002 and Cingular by 2004. (Sprint PCS will launch its own high-speed data service, CDMA 3G 1x, later this year; it should reach a somewhat faster peak speed, 144 Kbps.) Though the cost of using GPRS varies, plans generally charge for the amount of data sent and received.

What You Need
Devices that use GPRS or CDMA 3G 1X include cell phones from Ericsson (T39, T60c, T68), Kyocera (2200 series), Motorola (P280, P7382i, V.66), and Nokia (8390). Their drawback: you'll have to wander the Web on a tiny screen. The Handspring Treo is a full-function PDA packed into a flip phone; software enabling it to use GPRS will be released by midyear. The Danger Hiptop and Motorola Accompli 009 both look like two-way pagers, with large screens and small keyboards, and allow you to surf the Internet as well as send e-mails and instant messages. Also on the horizon: a GPRS BlackBerry.—Lisa Kalis

Need to Know

The Euro and You
Although the euro just began circulating January 1, by the end of the month it will be the only accepted currency in member nations. The various cutoff dates for using old money in each country are at www.euro.ecb.int. But don't worry: in most places you can exchange leftover cash at any bank all year, and at National Central Banks indefinitely.—Jim Glab

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