Wireless service vendors lagging: report

A new report from International Data Corp. (IDC) Canada indicates that corporations are ready to embrace wireless data services but that they are getting impatient with the tortoise pace at which vendors are moving to launch such services.

According to the study commissioned by IBM Canada Ltd. of Markham, Ont., 56 per cent of 100 senior executives from some of Canada’s largest companies surveyed said their organizations either have a wireless strategy in place or will have one by the end of the year. But in an interesting twist, while companies are ready for the move to wireless services, many of the organizations questioned said wireless vendors are behind in technology and implementation of services.

“If you’ve got a lot of large organizations who are basically ready and willing to use wireless and the services aren’t there, then that’s a bit of a cause for concern,” said Joe Greene, vice-president of IDC Canada and co-author of the reported called “The Evolution of Wireless Communications.”

Breaking the numbers down further, 34 per cent of the executives surveyed said they already have a wireless strategy in place and the other 22 per cent will have one in place by the end of 2001. All executives expect their companies will have a strategy in place by 2003. And chances are, Greene said, that very few of those surveyed will fail to meet their wireless strategy objectives, but the implementation of their strategies will be hindered by the lack of services available from wireless vendors.

A number of concerns are keeping companies from incorporating wireless into their daily business practices, Greene said. Security is one of the concerns at the top of the list, but the lack of good wireless devices, slow transmission speed, a lack of wireless standards amongst manufacturers and service providers and the cost and integration with back-office systems are also keeping executives up at night.

For once, however, the message is not that Canada is falling behind the U.S. but that it is falling behind Europe and Asia-Pacific, Greene said. There is a good reason for the gap between Canada and overseas countries, however. The creation of wireless standards and the expensive cost of wireline services have caused Europe, for instance, to make the move to wireless a lot quicker than its North American cousins. The U.S. is about on the same level as Canada in this case.

“The large end-users seem to be ready and they want this kind of service. It’s the service providers that aren’t ready to deliver,” Greene said. He predicted it will be two or three years before the service providers are ready.

Businesses are looking for available services and service providers are not yet ready to deliver, said Shahla Aly, vice-president of telecommunications and wireless services at IBM Canada. IBM Corp. has invested over US$1 billion worldwide in wireless services and has partnered with many companies like Waterloo, Ont.’s Research In Motion (RIM) Ltd., manufacturers of the BlackBerry wireless e-mail devices.

RIM’s David Werezak, vice-president of marketing, tells a different story than the one coming from IDC and IBM.

“Today, there really are no other parts of the world other than the United States and Canada that have significant wireless data networks and services,” Werezak said.

He said that the U.S. and Canada are ahead of what is going on in the area of wireless data services than other parts of the world, although there has been remarkable penetration of NTT DoCoMo Inc.’s i-mode device in Japan’s consumer space. RIM’s BlackBerry has more than 6,000 users, most of which are business-to-business customers, Werezak said.

“Certainly in our experience [and] from our perspective, we really think this is an area where North America is showing a lot of leadership,” Werezak said.