Rogers AT&T says wireless network complete

With its nation-wide wireless voice and data network now complete, Rogers AT&T Wireless Inc. says it’s focused on selling its benefits to a wary business community.

On Wednesday the Toronto-based company announced that 93 per cent of Canadians now live within reach of its GSM/GPRS digital wireless network, matching the numbers served by its older analog network. It’s now the largest digital wireless network in Canada.

During an official launch celebration in Toronto, Rogers AT&T emphasized that the network allows more than simple e-mail and Web surfing on the fly.

Instead, much of the focus was on the business benefits of wireless. “This network…has enabled Rogers AT&T to attract large companies,” said Nadir Mohamed, the company’s president and CEO.

Rogers and its partners, including Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co., pointed to the ability of wireless to open the doors on corporate applications sitting behind the network firewall, as well as the convenience factor, as major selling points.

Not only can the use of wireless networks improve ROI in hard numbers, it can also help companies save in a less tangible way as well, (by cutting) the time it takes for companies to respond to customers,” said Victor Garcia, managing principal of Mississauga, Ont.-based HP Services Canada.

Ray Pedersen, senior vice-president of operations at Mississauga, Ont.-based Purolator Courier Ltd., said his company is in the latter stages of a project that will see its drivers adopt wireless devices to upload package data to a central database in real time. This will help customers better track packages and help eliminate the need for Purlator drivers to transfer the data manually.

However, another speaker warned companies that wireless technology, though long predicted to make a serious enterprise breakthrough, is still in the early stages and faces “serious challenges,” including a tendency for service providers to get ahead of themselves.

“Support is an area that has not been considered,” said Mark Lowenstein, managing director of Mobile Ecosystems, “to support corporate applications requires a very different…and robust support infrastructure.”

However, he said issues that have traditionally dogged wireless, such as lack of suitable devices, coverage and applications, plus concerns over security and network throughput have largely been dealt with.

“We also have more realistic expectations, and that’s a good thing,” Lowenstein said.

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