While the T-Mobile service appears to work as advertised so far, itll take more than technological promise for this converged offering to storm the enterprise. While T-Mobile is the first U.S. carrier to embrace Wi-Fi/cellular convergence, the company is not yet prepared to target large businesses. Rather, T-Mobile officials said the phones are aimed at individuals in the 18-to-34 age range and for families. However, considering T-Mobiles aspirations for HotSpot @Home, it wont be long until the converged offering intersects with the enterprise. "The future of the service is to build this technology into the majority of devices so consumers can have this as an add-on feature," said T-Mobile spokesperson Peter Dobrow. "That said, this is a new technology and a new service, and as we move forward well see a lot of interest."While T-Mobile wont speculate about the use of its convergence technology in business, others arent so shy. Sources familiar with T-Mobiles new offering said its only a matter of time before these products show up in the enterprise arena. Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin said he doesnt think T-Mobiles solution will remain strictly a consumer offering for long. "There is tremendous demand from the business community already," Golvin said. "Enterprises have been crying for dual-mode wireless phones from the carriers for some time. They have wireless LANs; they have big data pipes. When they see employees running around with cell phones, they see money leaking out." Golvin said that up to now, carriers havent been willing to offer solutions that are acceptable to most enterprises. He said that something like the T-Mobile convergence solution probably will be acceptable but that a great deal will depend on the enterprise and its specific needs. To read about Research In Motions effort to add Wi-Fi capability to its handsets, click here. "I think its not sufficiently compelling for enterprises to switch over their cell phone service," Golvin said. "Some small enterprises may be interested in this solution. The offering is limited to these mainstream phones. If its a small enterprise thats not data-dependent, then this is a viable solution." Golvin said the biggest shortcoming right now is that T-Mobile isnt offering its converged solution with support for BlackBerrys or other data devices. Although the T-Mobile Dash supports both GSM and Wi-Fi, it will not work with HotSpot @Home, for example. Other factors may slow adoption of the T-Mobile service, including the need to save on land-line service and to have a broadband connection, Golvin said. He added that getting a DSL connection from carriers might be problematic. "It might be hard to get the broadband without the phone line," he said. Gartner analyst Tole Hart said that while the T-Mobile offering has a few issues that remain to be resolved, he wouldnt be surprised to see HotSpot @Home entering smaller enterprises almost immediately. Hart cited the limited number of handsets currently offered by T-Mobile as a challenge facing HotSpot @Home. "T-Mobile has offered the most economical choice," Hart said. "This service might be more attractive a year from now when you can get the handset you want." The large-enterprise space, however, will be a harder nut to crack and will require more than a broadened handset repertoire. "The enterprise market is different," Hart said. "There will be upgrades required in the Wi-Fi market. If you have a system designed for voice, youll be OK." Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance, in Austin, Texas, welcomed HotSpot @Home and said he hopes more carriers will move in a similar direction. "Wed certainly like to see it become more pervasive from more carriers," Hanzlik said. "The benefits of having Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity together are significant. Its really about using the best pipe for the environment and application youre in." Hanzlik said the alliance has already certified more than 100 Wi-Fi-capable phones. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.
Dobrow declined to discuss T-Mobiles plans to make the jump to enterprise convergence. He did not, however, rule out that it was in the works.