December 27, 2000, 2:08 PM — Building a piece of your intranet application into client devices to enable off-line capabilities is important for highly mobile users who need to remain productive even when outside of network coverage; I discussed this issue in the last newsletter. Another requirement is to maximize the network connectivity that you give to your users in the first place so they can stay as current as possible with e-mail, calendar functions and data synchronization.
In the case of mobile sales forces, the good news is many salespeople tend to have sales territories that are associated with geographical regions. Usually, a digital cellular carrier holds wireless spectrum licenses throughout the entire region or at least a good part of it. And cellular carriers tend to deploy a single network technology -- such as a Code Division Multiple Access, Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) or Time Division Multiple Access network -- so the type of network access needed throughout a big chunk of a salesperson's territory is likely to stay consistent. Often, then, a single type of phone will work throughout the region (unless it is simply out of coverage).
However, what if you are rolling out a nationwide, or even international, mobile solution? There are help desk and volume-discount benefits to selecting a single mobile device for users. But different parts of the world are covered by different kinds of mobile networks. Pacific Bell Wireless runs a GSM network in its region, for example, while Sprint PCS, US West, and Verizon run CDMA networks. (And just because Sprint PCS says it is the "only nationwide digital cellular network," don't interpret that to mean that it covers every nook and cranny in the U.S.) The fragmented state of network coverage means it's likely you will have to purchase different phones and different services from multiple providers.
One way to ease the headache of tapping multiple providers is to use a wireless application service provider (WASP). One of the many benefits of a WASP is that it can serve as your network service broker. In other words, the WASP takes on the burden of establishing relationships with multiple carriers crossing geographic boundaries. Depending on how widely dispersed your mobile employees are, that can be a point in the plus column for outsourcing to a WASP.