April 12, 2001, 3:41 PM — COMMITTED TO riding the wave of next-generation wireless services, telecom titans AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint have set off on a 3G pilgrimage, outlining road maps to arrive at ballyhooed 3G (third-generation) wireless networks.
By most accounts, it's likely to be a rocky journey.
Despite a wealth of ambition by wireless providers, the road to 3G deployment is littered with potential stumbling blocks, including tenuous financing schemes, immature handset technology, and a general lack of planned services.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle is a lack of demand. Corporate America has not sent a clear signal that it is ready for 3G; many business users are questioning whether high-speed wireless access is worth the wait and the anticipated higher costs.
"By being focused and attentive to what is really needed to deliver business value, we can do useful things right now," said Don Benage, CTO of G.A. Sullivan, a software development company in St. Louis.
In fact, "3G services," a term that refers to high-speed wireless data for multimedia and robust applications, appears to be becoming a marketing term rather than a technical description.
"From a consumer's perspective, they don't care if it is a 2.5G deployment or 3G. They want to know how it will make a practical difference in their lives," echoed Tom Trinneer, vice president of the portal group at AT&T Wireless.
Two wireless giants,Verizon and Sprint, used the CTIA Wireless 2001 conference, hosted by the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association in Las Vegas this week, as a launchpad. Both promised to roll out 3G high-speed wireless access to data by the end of this year. Carriers such as AT&T Wireless and Cingular also have unveiled elaborate 3G road maps.