Wireless Technologies

By Tom Field, CIO |  Networking

The Trendline

Don't bother telling your users about the wonders of wireless technologies. Let them tell you. Hear them describe the joys of information independence -- the exhilarating freedom of being able to access any information anywhere through the modem-free miracle of PDAs, pagers and cell phones. And then don't even think about telling these users that IS can't support their wireless devices. That's no longer an option.

The Promise

Wireless technologies guarantee that no conscientious worker will ever escape work completely. Not with cell phones that let conference calls carry over into the commute, not with pagers and PDAs that keep e-mail and Web access within arm's reach. User resistance? Forget it! Meta Group says that by 2003, half of all businesspeople will use three to four wireless data devices. Gartner Group predicts that by 2005, wireless technologies will attract 1 billion users worldwide. "The heartbeat of the business enterprise has become 'how quickly can you get back to a client's e-mail or voice mail?'" says Gartner Senior Analyst Phillip Redman. "And that heartbeat is only going to get faster."

The Pitfalls

There are several good reasons to doubt whether wireless can attain quick ubiquity, despite its steep growth curve:

Health Concerns Is there really a link between cell phone use and cancer? It's an issue being decided not just by the medical community, but in the courts as well. A Maryland doctor recently filed an $800 million lawsuit against Motorola and eight other telecommunications companies and groups, charging that his cell phone use caused a malignant brain tumor. Suits such as this one could put a lot of corporate wireless strategies on hold until the issues are settled.

Regulatory Issues Airlines already limit use of wireless devices on aircrafts. Will roadway bans be next? Some U.S. counties have banned outright the use of cell phones while driving, and three states -- California, Florida and Massachusetts -- limit the use of cell phones in moving vehicles (such as requiring the use of hands-free speaker and microphone systems). Whether such restrictions will gain further momentum is anyone's guess, but the threat could inhibit companies that are rolling out wireless devices.

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