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Wireless waiting game

Three upcoming developments make it easier to anticipate your wireless business strategy. Wireless waiting game Three upcoming developments make it easier to anticipate your wireless business strategy.

If ever there was a technology that had a “gee whiz” factor, it’s wireless. The idea that we can communicate with each other and compute regardless of location certainly is an enticing one. But while voice-based wireless technologies have taken off, we can’t say the same for data-based wireless activity.

Ask any business leader why he or she has not implemented a wireless strategy that includes data and business applications and the reasons will be all too familiar. Current devices are not yet useful enough, costs for devices and wireless service are still too high, and there are not yet enough business applications.

Those days are numbered, however. Three expected important changes should mature data-based wireless technology over the next two to three years.

The first important change will occur with the adoption of third-generation (3G) wireless networking support. Today, commercially available wireless networks support second-generation-plus (or, 2.5G) technologies, which only allow transmission speeds of 9.6 to 144 Kbps. By the end of this year, expect to see the first commercial network implementations that offer 3G.

Companies in Japan and Korea will likely go first, but Europe and the United States are not that far behind. 3G will enable data transmission rates of 384 Kbps and faster. And plans are being drafted now for a 4G standard that will support 10Mbps and greater transmission speeds, although this will take some time to be implemented.

The second important change will occur with wireless devices, which will rapidly evolve to support business applications. Much of the discussion at this week’s JavaOne conference in San Francisco, for instance, will revolve around wireless devices and associated applications such as new Java-based phones. These phones will enable voice and Java-based business application access. Similar developments will soon make today’s Palm, Blackberry, or SmartPhone feel like early prototypes.

And finally, the third important factor is change in wireless applications. Accessing e-mail, Web sites, and the weather has been fun, but we’ve lacked the tools needed to create new business applications or to adapt existing ones for use over wireless networks. New tools arriving on the scene will support standards such as Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) and Extensible Markup Language (XML). XML in particular is where the most activity will occur during the next two to three years.

This is hardly the time to begin implementing a full-blown wireless strategy. But it’s a great time to consider how your company might leverage the technology two to three years from now. Keep tabs on how wireless technologies are maturing so you can plan your strategy appropriately.

Contributing Editor Maggie Biggs has more than 15 years of business and IT experience in the financial sector.

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