Phone.com Gets European Foothold With Northern Ireland Acquisition

Phone.com (Nasdaq: PHCM), a leading maker of Internet-browsing software for wireless phones, announced yesterday at the Telecom ’99 show in Geneva, Switzerland that it has signed an agreement to acquire Apion Ltd. of Belfast, Northern Ireland for $239 million (US$) in stock.

The Redwood, California-based company said the deal will give it a leading Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) software supplier in Europe, where the development of the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) is progressing rapidly.

A European Network

Apion delivers WAP software to 10 GSM wireless network operators in Europe, including Switzerland’s Swisscom AG and Finland’s Sonera Oyj. The deal will not include Apion’s non WAP-related service business, Phone.com said.

“Apion adds leading European network operators to Phone.com’s extensive list of GSM customers, which includes Mannesmann Mobilfunk, Omnitel, Cegetel/SFR, Telstra, Sunday and 17 others,” said Phone.com CEO Alain Rossman. “The addition of over 110 experienced people to our European organization underscores Phone.com’s commitment to the global GSM market and consolidates our position as a leading supplier of WAP software.”

Market researcher Yankee Group predicts that 25 million users in the U.S will use wireless services by 2005. The European wireless market is widely expected to surpass the U.S. market.

Wireless Creates Static

The deal was the second major WAP agreement of the day. IBM and Nokia also announced a global partnership in which Big Blue will market and distribute Nokia’s WAP software on its PC servers and license Nokia’s core WAP technology for integration with other IBM server platforms.

An IBM executive commented that the ability to go online via a mobile phone would be analogous to “having the Internet in your pocket,” a description that Phone.com and Apion surely would endorse.

Phone.com has offices in London and Tokyo and has already licensed its UP server software to GSMs across Europe and Asia. Sprint and U.S. West are among its U.S. customers. In total, the company has forged relationships with 31 network operators worldwide. Combined, they provide telephony services to 33 percent of the world’s voice subscribers.

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