• United States
by Mark Lowenstein

Toward the mobile enterprise, step by step

Aug 23, 20048 mins
Network Security

With improved devices, apps and infrastructure, wireless is making headway as a solid new data center technology. Analyst Mark Lowenstein offers a 10-point evaluation guide.

Mobility in the enterprise has been – like wireless coverage – spotty. Too many “gotchas” have prevailed: unreliable and slow networks, deficient devices, underdeveloped billing and customer care systems, and lack of focus by the major wireless operators. These factors made for complex wireless projects involving a veritable circus of middleware, gateway and system integrator vendors. As a result, outside of BlackBerry, which counts about 1 million users worldwide, we’ve not seen broad adoption of wireless data in the enterprise. In fact, research shows that the global market for downloading ring tones exceeds that for enterprise wireless data services today.

But in the past two years, we’ve seen progress on several fronts:

  • Wireless networks have improved. Coverage is better, and 2.5G networks such as General Packet Radio Service/Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution and Code Division Multiple Access 1x boast always-on capability and offer speeds of one to three times that of dial-up. (How much faster depends on a number of factors, such as distance from base station and capacity loading.)

  • We finally have a suite of business-class devices, across multiple operating systems. Whether phone or PDA-phone combinations, these devices support much greater memory (up to 64M byte on board, with many having some form of removable storage) and faster processors (we’ll see the first 1-GHz processor on a phone by next year). Sample business-class devices include the BlackBerry, palmOne Treo (Palm OS), Samsung i700 (Microsoft Pocket PC) and Sony Ericsson P900 (Symbian).

  • Wireless carriers have improved support for the enterprise. Most have dedicated support for midsize to large companies, separate care centers for data and improved billing systems. All have expanded their technical sales resources. Their security story also has evolved.

With such advancements, companies now can take wireless to the next level. Doing so requires two steps. First, you must develop a company-wide mobility strategy that includes a holistic view of wireless: voice and data, in-building as well as mobile, and including plans for WANs and wireless LANs. Second, as wireless becomes a core component of new data center plans, you must deploy wireless to a much larger group of enterprise users.

10-point evaluation framework

This 10-point framework will help you determine whether it’s time to dive into enterprise mobility and how to evaluate vendor solutions:

1. Enterprise mobility requirements. We define a mobile worker as one who is away from his primary workplace at least 20% of the time. Approximately one-third of the U.S. workforce, or about 50 million users, falls into this category. Once you have determined whether an employee is a mobile worker, you need to better understand his particular wireless requirements: campus, local, regional, national, international.

2. Applications. Does the employee primarily need remote access plus mobile e-mail and personal information management – meaning access to contacts and calendar? Or does the employee need more vertically oriented solutions such as field-force automation or other applications that might require custom development or, at a minimum, some form of wireless remote access? Also consider whether the employee needs constant connection to the application or whether he can work offline and then remote access in or synchronize the data.

3. Device requirements. This does not have to be a one-size-fits-all solution. For applications with high input requirements, provide devices with qwerty keyboards or perhaps some level of voice recognition. For heavy use while driving, consider a good car kit to improve reception and provide hands-free capability. Also realize that some data-centric devices, such as the Treo and the Pocket PC, require a fair bit of two-handed use (stylus), while others such as the BlackBerry allow effective one-handed use.

Keep in mind that the pace of innovation in devices is accelerating, so make sure you have a favorable upgrade program in place. You will probably want to change phones every two years on average. Note that if you want 3G, you will need a new phone (or new PC card) when those services and devices launch. Also ensure that the volume discount program you negotiate will continue if new sets are purchased, as most companies don’t get the same “phone is almost free” program as consumers enjoy.

4. Network requirements. Recognize that for the next three years, we still will be dealing with what I call “mobility islands.” From a WAN perspective, 2.5G will be the default network, with 3G – 1x Evolution-Data Optimized or Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service – being launched on a market-by-market basis over the next three years. Public Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly available in Tier-1 locations, although the biggest challenge here is the fragmented market structure. By early next year, we should see common connection cards, clients and even devices that support both WAN and 802.11 WLAN. For the foreseeable future, neither 3G WAN nor 802.11 will be ubiquitous, so ensure users can access critical applications over 2.5G networks in some sort of stripped-down version.

5. Corporate liability, or not? An under-recognized obstacle to larger-scale deployments is that within a given company, users are on a hodgepodge of mobile devices and service plans that they have selected personally, even if they bill back to the company. You must recognize that employees will require a choice of handsets, and even carriers, because individual preferences and network coverage will vary. Mandating a particular device and network will work only for a highly desired or mission-critical corporate application.

Another issue is that traditional boundaries between business and personal use do not exist in wireless. How will you deal with users who want to download tunes, share pictures and play games during non-business hours? You need to spearhead policy development for this.

6. Support structure. Realize that the more involved the devices and applications, the greater the support requirements. Companies are all over the map in providing support to their mobile workforce. Is this something that you plan to do internally? What are your expectations from the sales/support infrastructure from your wireless operator or other solutions provider?

A look at 3G’s impact

Mark Lowenstein of Mobile Ecosystems tells why 3G should bring about change to enterprise remote-access strategies.

Click here for more

7. Security. Not a deal-maker, but a deal-breaker. Mobile VPN support has matured significantly and IPSec support is now a minimum requirement for enterprise deployment. We will move toward Secure Sockets Layer VPNs over the next three years. Mobile device management and security are becoming increasingly important – including access control, inventory management, intrusion protection and configuration management. At the least, make sure you can lock down BlackBerries, Palms or other devices loaded with significant amounts of corporate data (such as e-mail and address books) if they are lost or stolen.

8.Billing and account management. Although billing capabilities have improved to map to corporate needs, we still need a wave of business-to-business management tools that let IT managers better access account management and configuration.

9. Enterprise application vendors. Mobility is still not “core” to the CRM/ERP applications from the major vendors – Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP and Siebel Systems. The approach to mobility varies significantly from one vendor to another, with some supporting an offline/sync architecture and others promoting a more connected solution. Think carefully about these two frameworks when evaluating vendors. For example, does a new sales order need immediate input, or can that wait till day’s end?

10. Think about context. Users move through multiple islands of connectivity as they work and travel. So think about what can be accessed or delivered to users, depending on their “state.” For example, they won’t be able to download a big attachment if they are connected at dial-up speed. This is where developments in location services, presence and multi-modal (such as voice recognition and text-to-speech) applications might help optimize the mobile experience.

Lowenstein is managing director of Mobile Ecosystem, a leading consulting and advisory services firm. He can be reached at

3G outlook

A technology-by-technology look at 3G rollouts.
Network Data speed Operator status
GPRS 30K to 60K bit/sec Near complete GSM network coverage.
EDGE 75K to 150K bit/sec
AT&T has deployed across most of network.
Cingular to launch across most of network by Q3 ’04.
WCDMA/UMT Up to 384K bit/sec
AT&T to deploy minimum of four markets in ’04.
Cingular intends to deploy in 2006-2007 time frame; testing this year in Atlanta.
CDMA 1x 60K to 80K bit/sec Deployed across North American CDMA networks.
CDMA 1x EV-DO/DV 300K to 500K bit/sec
Verizon has launched in two markets and plans to deploy nationwide by year-end 2005.
Sprint PCS to deploy in most markets over next two years.
WiDEN 60K to 80K bit/sec Nextel plans to launch by year-end.