Poised to reap rewards of wireless

By Maggie Biggs, InfoWorld |  Networking

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 Wireless Survey, 95 percent 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. 3G (third-generation) 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 Wireless Survey reveals that many IT leaders are looking at 3G wireless technologies to determine their impact and benefits. Eighteen percent of the respondents indicated that they already have or are currently examining 3G, and another 45 percent reported that they plan to evaluate the technology during the next two years.

As 3G technologies and related devices begin to appear in the United States, 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 percent said the technology will be extremely important, 32 percent indicated that it will be very important, and 20 percent 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.

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