Demand for wireless Internet access poses problems in preparing applications for the new medium

By Kevin Railsback, InfoWorld |  Software

Lori: Last week we wrote about wireless Internet access. That topic raised a lot of reader questions regarding how to enable applications for wireless access.

We will see major growth in the number of wireless data subscribers, rising to 1.3 billion in 2004, according to Cahners In-Stat Group. Online businesses will want to hop on the bandwagon of this rapidly growing market to reach their mobile customers; however, making this move can be a big endeavor. Therefore, some companies are turning to WASPs (wireless application service providers), an emerging set of providers that help companies enable or develop content over wireless devices for the mobile workforce.

A number of WASPs already exist, and more seem to pop up everyday. When you select a WASP, make sure it offers what you are looking for. Many provide wireless services such as e-mail and collaboration tools; others will do development work. To make your site accessible to wireless devices, you'll need to recode applications or translate them to an alternate format.

Many online businesses don't have the resources to develop these changes in-house, but they can turn to a WASP, such as market leaders 2Roam, AvantGo, GeoWorks, and OracleMobile. These providers take the burden out of altering your content to suit many handheld wireless devices. OracleMobile (a subsidiary of Oracle), for example, will also develop new sites designed for mobile users.

This rapidly growing segment can benefit your company and get your products to market that much quicker. Cahners In-Stat Group predicts that although 70 percent of mobile workers have cell phones, only 4 percent can access important wireless data. For a complete list of WASPs, see the directory at www.wirelessweek.com.

Of course with this increase in mobile access, worldwide bandwidth becomes a bigger issue. Tell us, Kevin, how do you think that bandwidth will react to this increase in wireless data access?

Kevin: Just as computer performance is continually increasing, bandwidth capacity for both wired and wireless networks has been on the rise for some time. But consider several important factors about wireless bandwidth.

For one, wireless infrastructure can be very expensive to upgrade on a regular basis. Unlike many of the advances in wired bandwidth that have involved using existing cable and coax lines or bundling multiple physical circuits together, wireless is much more limited. The radio spectrum used for these communications can't be expanded in most cases. In fact, just the opposite is true. More and more devices and technologies are competing for the limited radio spectrum.

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