Milan — OMNITEL 2000, Omnitel's new web portal, was presented this morning in Milan. This new product provides access to over 150 different services and the Internet from any type of telephone connection using the first-ever combination of voice recognition and hypertext technologies to achieve convergence between telecommunications, the Internet, and the media world.
The service is due to start at the end of June. During the first two months, site offerings will be fine-tuned, leading to an expected commercial launch at the beginning of September. Omnitel forecasts 60 million accesses by the end of the year.
Omnitel 2000 is a portal, a single route traveling through the different technologies which make up the platform, allowing access to a theoretically unlimited number of services. Various companies have already seen in Omnitel 2000 not only new business and service opportunities for their customers, but also a new publicity channel.
Omnitel 2000's services are available both to Omnitel's own customers, by dialing "2000," as well as to customers of other fixed and mobile operators.
Omnitel 2000 can be accessed in three ways: Directly through the Internet at sites www.2000.it and www.2000.com; via mobile phones using WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), the protocol for wireless Internet access; or by means of voice recognition, one of the most innovative aspects of this initiative.
Thanks to the rapid progress of voice recognition systems, it is now possible to navigate through services by using natural human language, communicating choices to the system over any type of telephone. In Omnitel 2000 customers can find all kinds of easily available and up-to- date information: current news, local restaurants listed according to type and price, cinemas, stock exchange quotations, personal investments, flights, and horoscopes. It will be possible to hire a car, buy a ticket for a show, book a holiday, or make bank transactions and consult insurance agencies.
Users can search using specific details or through virtual theme areas created by Omnitel 2000, such as economy, football, cars, or music.
Omnitel 2000 provides a solution to the two major limitations of the Internet in Italy: the limited domestic use of PCs and distribution of credit cards.
Thanks to the use of the voice and WAP technology, the mobile phone will become the ideal instrument for web access, extending the number of Internet customers from the current two million, to all 50 million current fixed and mobile phone users in Italy.
In a future in which personal wireless communication seems destined to reach practically all of Italy's 57 million citizens, the mobile phone is not only the ideal means of communication, but also the most widespread instrument for access to services and information offered by the Internet and the media.
Omnitel 2000 also allows customers to pay for its services using the same E-commerce mechanism that Omnitel's millions of prepaid customers use. And Omnitel's prepaid customers can use their credit to access Omnitel 2000's services.
Omnitel 2000's information services will range from finance to economy, and from entertainment to news. Customers will be guided by voice prompts when using a traditional phone, or by hypertext menus when using WAP or the Internet. Omnitel has set up a 12 Mb/s channel to access Internet services, and the infrastructure is already able to access 1.5 million pages a day. The contents of Omnitel 2000's services are stored in five databases distributed throughout Italy.
The next European mobile communication standard, UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), is expected to begin testing in Italy by the end of the year. UMTS will use a wider frequency band of up to 2 Mb/s, enhancing Omnitel 2000's capabilities and allowing mobile phones to integrate voice, data, and video transmissions.
Omnitel 2000 is managed by a 50-member team led by Vincenzo Novari, who, after the success achieved within the company's Personal Division, has taken charge of this new strategic sector. About 100 other Omnitel employees are also involved in the project, along with hundreds of people in research centers around the world who have contributed to the implementation of the technical solutions.