Wireless carriers are stepping up efforts to woo corporate customers as the countdown to local number portability begins.
AT&T Wireless Services Inc. plans to roll out its high-speed EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) network nationwide by the end of the year, according to AT&T officials who demonstrated EDGE at the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment show here last week.
While EDGE technically allows speeds of up to 384K bps, commercial data rates will average about 150K bps, officials said.
Cingular Wireless is testing software that accelerates wireless data speeds through a corporate VPN via compression. "I call it freeze-dried data," said Brian Keller, executive director of solutions engineering application development at Cingular, in Atlanta. The software, which sits behind the firewall and on the mobile client, should be commercially available next year, Keller said.
Carriers are also exploring the idea of hosting their own VPN services. Sprint PCS Group is considering such a plan through a partnership with IBMs Pervasive Computing Software Group, according to IBM officials, in Somers, N.Y.
Verizon Wireless Inc. officials said here last week that the company is focusing on corporate customers more than ever, in large part because of the upcoming local number portability rule. Starting late next month, wireless customers will be able to take their phone numbers with them when they switch carriers, which may increase churn.
"We have distinct teams to focus on enterprise versus consumers," said Cindy Patterson, vice president of enterprise data sales at Verizon Wireless, in San Diego. "This has been the year for the enterprise."
Global support is a key focus, Patterson said. Verizon Wireless plans to sell a phone that incorporates Qualcomm Inc.s 6000 chip set, which supports CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks, meaning it will work in most networks. The phone may be available by years end, Patterson said.