• United States
by Mark Lowenstein

Make way for 3G

Jan 30, 20062 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecurityWAN

New cellular networks offer mobile workers ubiquitous access to enterprise applications.

An introduction to a guide to how 3G affects wireless/mobile devices and those who use them.

2006 is shaping up as the year when data-optimized cellular wireless networks could become the preferred method for IT executives to provide remote access to their mobile workforces.

The three leading cellular wireless operators – Cingular, Sprint Nextel and Verizon – are all in the process of deploying 3G networks, which offer average throughput rates of 400K to 700Kbps.

This major network upgrade is accompanied by an expanding array of business-class devices designed to take advantage of 3G. For example, we are seeing the first 3G BlackBerry, a 3G Treo running Windows, and several exciting new enterprise-centric devices from Nokia featuring Symbian OS and BlackBerry Connect for wireless e-mail.

In addition, Microsoft will play a greater role in helping enterprises go mobile. Several new PDAs are planned, most with WAN and Wi-Fi built in; and Windows Mobile 5.0 and Service Pack 2 will provide for push e-mail capabilities and better synchronization with Exchange, finally making Microsoft a viable contender for mobile e-mail.

Two other developments also could take enterprise mobile to the next level. The first is fixed-mobile convergence. You can expect to see the first mainstream mobile devices that feature both WAN and Wi-Fi chipsets, which will allow for even higher-speed data in certain locations, plus the potential to leverage the broadband network for voice to address in-building coverage issues and reduce cellular bills. Second, expect to see wireless operators make location-based services a broader part of their product offerings.

That said, the picture is not totally rosy. IT executives should know that, while compelling, cellular technology involves compromises. Coverage is not perfect. It is difficult to choose a one-size-fits-all device. The first converged WAN/Wi-Fi devices will involve trade-offs in areas such as form factor and battery life.

Finally, because wireless networks remain expensive to deploy and support, services still command a premium. For example, 3G must have the ROI to support the cost: a minimum of $60 per month for PC card access. Some customers might have to choose between wireless e-mail and 3G remote access, because they will not be prepared to spend between $100 and $120 per month, per worker for wireless data in addition to voice.