Taking its cues from an advisory board of Fortune 500 CIOs, Verizon Wireless is working on several initiatives to make its enterprise wireless services more secure and easier to manage.
For enterprise customers that want to keep data close to the vest, the Bedminster, N.J., carrier is testing a behind-the-firewall version of its Wireless Sync product, a push-based e-mail access service based on software from Intellisync Corp.
No release date has been set, but the service will augment the current version of Wireless Sync, which focuses on small businesses and individual business users, according to Verizon officials.
"The carriers sweet spot is the individual, and thats an important piece, but as they look to enter enterprise solutions, the enterprise requirements require behind-the-firewall software," said Stephen Drake, an analyst at IDC, in Framingham, Mass.
While the services remain in Verizons testing stage, Intellisync CEO Woody Hobbs said the software to support the offering is "ready when theyre ready."
Hobbs said his San Jose, Calif., company is working on similar enterprise offerings with other carriers.
Intellisync last week unveiled the latest version of its wireless e-mail access platform, which Verizon is also offering. It includes support for devices using the IMAP e-mail client, the ability to perform background synchronization on PalmSource Inc.s Palm OS-based smart phones, the ability to provision devices over the air via a Web-based client and several security enhancements.
Verizon Wireless is also working on data access services that go beyond e-mail and can take advantage of the companys newest high-speed networks.
"Obviously, the introduction of EvDO [Evolution Data Optimized] opens the door for new applications," said Cindy Patterson, vice president of enterprise sales at Verizon Wireless. Patterson said the demand for sales force automation and field-force automation access rivals the demand for e-mail access among her top customers. "Mission-critical applications are taking precedence," she said.
To that end, Intellisync is forging deals with third-party software providers such as PeopleSoft Inc. and Salesforce.com Inc. to provide access to their applications, Hobbs said.
CIOs are seeing a growing need for accessing applications beyond e-mail, finding that the easier the access is, the more likely it is employees will use the application.
"We noticed the biggest difference with Siebel [Systems Inc. applications]," said Norm Fjeldheim, CIO of Qualcomm Inc., in San Diego. "Before, the [sales] guys had to go back to their rooms, so we didnt get the uptake we wanted. When we gave everyone [wireless modems], the uptake went from 35 to 65 percent." Qualcomm also uses a CRM (customer relationship management) application for its employees wireless phones.
Intellisync is also readying a device and account maintenance management software package for carriers to offer to enterprise customers, officials said, noting that several carriers have requests for proposals out for device management software and services. The software package will ship this month.
Sprint Corp. plans to offer a device management service in the next quarter, according to officials in Overland Park, Kan.
Verizon Wireless is considering such a service as well, Patterson said.
In addition, Verizon Wireless is exploring ways to make billing plans more cost-effective for its customers. While the majority of wireless laptop users opt for an unlimited monthly data plan, handset customers tend toward a mix of plans. Besides managed services, "we have pooling minutes for voice and data on our road map," Patterson said.