Wonders of a Wireless World
Development and convergence of wireless technologies in 2006 offers the prospect of making PDAs and handhelds more than just email receivers. Between Wi-Fi and the arrival of 3G technology, VoIP, and dual-mode handsets, the ability for enterprise workers to connect to back-office applications like sales automation and CRM is rapidly increasing.
"[Next year promises] to be a big year in wireless technology," says Tom Racca, vice president of marketing for Siemens Wireless. The current use of Wi-Fi networks combined with an emerging market demand by enterprises warming up to wireless technology will propel the industry. "Wi-Fi has better connection than cellular and allows sales and customer representatives access any time, anywhere. The business processes that support the use of this technology by enterprises have matured [this year]. In 2006, you'll see more market demand and the continued improvement of these business processes. In 2007, you'll see business processes become definitively mobile across the board--back-office systems, PDAs, and laptops--and [see them] combined with multiple devices and technologies."
Dual-mode handsets, capable of receiving both VoIP and cellular traffic, will allow mobile providers to bundle Wi-Fi calls with their mobile networks, enhancing coverage for wireless operators while improving service for sales forces. The end result: A sales representative can receive traditional calls via the cellular network while downloading large amounts of information from a customer database. Voice over wireless local area networks (VoWLANs) seek to take advantage of dual-mode handsets by combining Wi-Fi and cellular traffic. "By providing combined cellular/Wi-Fi handsets, it's a game-set-match for mobile providers as the technology is highly suited to the mobile carriers," says Luke Thomas, research analyst with Frost and Sullivan.
From the network perspective third generation--3G--technology, is finally arriving after years of mishaps and delays. Already strong in the European market (Vodafone Group PLC, Europe's biggest wireless operator, added one million 3G customers globally in the second quarter of 2005 alone), 3G offers the advantage of higher data rate capabilities that download data faster than older technology. It's expected to hit the North American market by mid-2006. Currently, to connect to an SFA system wireless devices rely on real-time browsing (which can be unreliable due to inconsistent service) or burst transmissions, but high bandwidth consumption and handset memory becomes a problem. "When you're talking about hooking into a CRM or SFA solution, you have a need for speed," says Dan Rudolph, director of industry solutions at Good Technology.
VoIP is the latecomer, expected to hit the mobile market in late 2006 or early 2007. "A sales representative could be on the road, get an important call from a customer on his phone back in his office, and automatically have the call routed to his Wi-Fi handset using VoIP," says David Werezak, vice president of the Enterprise Business Unit at RIM, developer of the BlackBerry wireless platform. "When combined with higher speed networks, such as 2.5G and 3G, end users will really begin to enjoy these technological benefits. It will make interacting with a Salesforce.com or SAP better than it's ever been before."