BTCellnet announced yesterday it would be launching its GPRS (general packet radio service) service to consumers on 18 May.

The service will offer such benefits as 'always on' internet access and (relatively) high-speed data transmission, which BT says will create a more affordable service than that offered by current GSM technologies.

Until now, BT's GPRS has only been available to a limited number of corporate users, primarily due to a lack of compatible handsets, but Motorola's Timeport 260 GPRS phone now means BT can reach a wider audience.

But things didn't go entirely according to plan. BT will be hoping the handsets work more successfully than at the launch yesterday, when three successive GPRS phones failed to connect to the internet.

"We hope when new models and applications are launched any glitches will have been ironed out," said a BT spokesperson.

The benefits of the always-on system mean users no longer have to dial in to access emails or WAP services. Customers are charged for data downloaded rather than time online. This should mean a 100-word email would be cheaper to send than a 160-character text message via the GSM network.

Two consumer tariffs will be available at launch, from £3.99 to £7.99 a month plus additional charges for voice calls, with Motorola's Timeport 260 retailing at £199.