Poised to reap the

Do you remember the thrill of using a cellular phone for the first time, calling your boss, your mom, or your best friend from your car? Mobile technologies freed us to conduct business at anytime from anyplace, and now that the “wow” is gone, we take voice-based cellular technologies for granted. According to the 2001 InfoWorld (US) Wireless Survey, 95 per cent of the 500 respondents said they regularly use cell phones to conduct business.

Expect more “wow” to come. The future of wireless technologies does not end with voice. The greatest business benefits of wireless are just around the corner: Think data.

The time to strategize future corporate wireless plans is now. Third-generation (3G) technologies will likely be commercially available in Asia later this year; Europe, the United States, and other markets will quickly follow suit. As we move from 2.5G toward 3G wireless technologies, we can expect bandwidth to increase, devices to mature, and application support to improve. These implementations also promise higher speeds (384Kbps and faster) and enhanced support for business applications and related content, such as intelligent agents that will better integrate wireless devices with business processes.

The InfoWorld (US) Wireless Survey reveals that many IT leaders are looking at 3G wireless technologies to determine their impact and benefits. Eighteen per cent of the respondents indicated that they already have or are currently examining 3G, and another 45 per cent reported that they plan to evaluate the technology during the next two years.

As 3G technologies and related devices begin to appear in the North America, business leaders should determine which business applications will yield the greatest ROI when ported to wireless and should carry out pilot programs. Developers will need training to understand how to construct wireless applications that are best suited to the smaller screen sizes found in mobile devices such as smart phones.

Technology allowing wireless access to business applications is expected to achieve widespread adoption by 2003. Supporting that assumption, the majority of survey respondents noted that high-speed wireless technologies will be important to their companies in the next two years; 26 per cent said the technology will be extremely important, 32 per cent indicated that it will be very important, and 20 per cent said it will be somewhat important.

As wireless bandwidth increases, IT leaders should weigh not only application advantages but also how wireless technologies might improve infrastructures. For example, existing technologies that support mobile networking in campus-based settings already can improve productivity.

Also expect wireless networking capacities to improve during the next two to three years. Infrastructure and network administration costs can be reduced by replacing existing wired networks with wireless solutions.

IT leaders who want to use wireless technologies to boost business-to-business interaction will need to wait a little longer. Current plans for 4G wireless technology hold the promise of greater data transmission speeds, but 4G isn’t expected until sometime between 2005 and 2010. 4G implementations will enable broadband wireless application access and interaction. Meanwhile, the time frame between 3G and 4G is the time to strategize b-to-b with wireless.

For now, companies should consider how they can get the most out of wireless technologies, beginning with 2.5G for early adopters, and should develop piloting strategies between 2.5G and 3G. It is clear that business-to-consumer benefits as well as infrastructure improvements will be found in wireless technologies in the next two to three years.

Maturing wireless technologies will also yield another attribute. The very nature of mobile data and application access promises to enhance the way we do business by removing the location-based constraints that often prove a hindrance today. On the downside, integrating wireless technologies within companies and between business partners will introduce some new challenges for strategists.

This is an ideal time for CTOs and other business leaders to develop a strategy to take advantage of forthcoming wireless technologies. Early adopters are already using existing technologies, but expected improvements in bandwidth, devices, and application support will make wireless technologies highly viable for general deployment in the next two to three years.

How are you preparing for the next phase of wireless technologies?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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