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CONTACT'S CELLULAR SURFING

WHEN I USE A HANDHELD computer, I find it frustrating to have to scrounge up a phone line to go online or send E-mail. One solution, wireless communication, remains imperfect, but the connections are improving.

Wireless has had some big problems: Network coverage is geographically limited, sometimes unreliable, and expensive. And connecting requires clumsy radio modems.

The new Contact handheld PC from Novatel (888 888-9231) can't do anything about the networks, but it does improve portability. The $1,000 Contact is a modified LG Electronics Phenom, a handheld PC based on Microsoft's Windows CE 2.0. The built-in radio modem runs at 19.2 kilobits per second and is backed by a 14.4 kbps conventional modem.

Contact lets you handle E-mail and Web-surf using cellular digital packet data service. CDPD provides coverage that is solid in most cities but spotty in the suburbs. Because it shares spectrum with cell phones, CDPD service can bog down at busy times. It starts at about $19 a month, and vendors include AT&T Wireless (www.attws.com) and GoAmerica Communications (www.goamerica.com).

BY STEPHEN H. WILDSTROM



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PHOTO: Novatel Contact


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Updated June 11, 1998 by bwwebmaster
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