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Despite a couple of high-profile success stories in which wireless data applications have translated into immense productivity gains and a competitive advantage, broad adoption of wireless data services in the corporate world remains an elusive goal.
Use of wireless data services "isn't going to explode" in the near future, although the functionalities and applications of mobile data services will continue to increase until the tide turns in the services' favor, says Jay Highley, vice president of business marketing at Sprint PCS, the wireless business of Sprint Corp.
The speed of wireless networks will improve as carriers such as Sprint phase in deployments of more advanced third-generation wireless technology until wireless services are faster than regular dial-up services, tipping the balance in favor of wireless data, said Highley on Wednesday during a keynote speech at the Wireless Internet World East trade show in New York.
For Sprint, that point will arrive later this year when the first phase of its 3G implementation starts to produce network speeds of 56 Kbps. "This summer will be a major milestone because for the first time the tables will be turned," in terms of the speeds available from wireless networks compared to regular dial-up, Highley said.
Limited speed is just one of the factors holding most IT managers back from adopting wireless data in greater numbers, says Veronica Williams, a wireless analyst with Discover IT. Other roadblocks to corporate adoption are the hodgepodge of wireless standards and devices in the marketplace and concerns about securing corporate data in the wireless world, Williams says.
Nevertheless, a few highly visible companies such as United Parcel Service and FedEx have demonstrated how wireless data can be harnessed for clear productivity gains, making broader adoption an eventuality, Williams says. "The value proposition is so compelling that you have to do it, as UPS and FedEx have demonstrated," she says.
Access to E-mail is the No. 1 wireless data application sought by businesses. To tap that market, Sprint on Wednesday introduced its Business Connection Personal Edition, which individual users can install to view E-mail, calendars, and contacts stored on corporate servers while away from the office, using a Sprint PCS phone. The software works with Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes and joins a previously available enterprise edition of the software, which IT managers must implement companywide. The personal edition, in contrast, is for individual users. The software offers 128-bit encryption to provide security for corporate data carried via wireless links. The Business Connection Personal Edition software is free, although Sprint PCS customers will pay an additional $2.99 a month for using the capability.