Wireless Users in the Enterprise Face Hard Choice

By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2002-10-21

Wireless Users in the Enterprise Face Hard Choice

LAS VEGAS—With carriers and wireless providers focused on consumer services, enterprises face a tough choice of waiting for better options or paying a premium for consumer features and gadgetry to get utilitarian voice and data services.

To date, vendors and carriers see more profit in applications such as MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) so are concentrating on the GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communications/ General Packet Radio Service) networks that support them. That focus slights the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) platform, which is more widely deployed in the United States and is seen as necessary for enterprise services here. Development for CDMA networks is being stunted as a result.

"The game seems to be selling megabytes to end users," said Jorge Abellas-Martin, senior vice president and CIO at Arnold Worldwide, in Boston, and an eWeek Corporate Partner. For instance, officials at Symbian Ltd., a London-based mobile consortium, last week said several licensees are building handsets and user interfaces based on Version 6.1 of its operating system, which supports GSM networks but not CDMA.

Nokia Corp., in Espoo, Finland, in the first quarter of next year plans to start shipping in North America the Nokia 3650, a phone with a built-in camera that runs Nokias Series 60 smart-phone platform on top of Version 6.1 of the Symbian operating system.

So far, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, in London, is the only company preparing to offer a product that supports Symbian Version 7.0, which works on GSM and CDMA. The P800, due in the first quarter, is a pen-based phone that supports e-mail and attachments, the SyncML synchronization specification, and several development standards. However, the P800, so far, supports only GSM. Nokia officials said they have plans for a Symbian CDMA handset, but it wont be available before the end of next year, and it wont run on the Series 60.

Unlike some competitors, Research In Motion Ltd. is trying to keep its niche in the enterprise by supporting as many networks as it can. In the United States, Verizon Wireless Inc. and Sprint PCS Group are rolling out next-generation networks based on CDMA, while AT&T Wireless Services Inc., T-Mobile International Group and Cingular Wireless are rolling out GPRS.

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At the CTIA Wireless show here last week, RIM announced shipment of the 6710 and 6720 BlackBerry devices that run in the United States and overseas on GPRS networks and support both voice and data. T-Mobile and AT&T Wireless plan to offer the 6710, which follows the 5810, a data-only GPRS e-mail pager available now. In the next month, there should be RIM devices shipping that support additional networks beyond GPRS—;such as CDMA1X, which sources said Verizon will offer—;and a pager/phone/ walkie-talkie device that supports Nextel Communications Inc.s iDen network.

"If youre going to solve an enterprises problem, its pretty multifaceted," said Jim Balsillie, CEO of RIM, in Waterloo, Ontario. "Were trying to be a global provider." Balsillie showed eWeek a prototype of a triband BlackBerry device with a color screen, which AT&T Wireless may offer early next year. Arnolds Abellas-Martin said he is interested in devices that combine voice and data but has no plans for Symbian devices. "Symbians yet another thing to learn and support. And the problem with GSM/GPRS for voice and data is that it doesnt work everywhere."

Despite complaints from corporate users, officials at Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Symbian said smart phones aimed at enterprise audiences are unlikely. But all three are working with developers to figure out how to serve the enterprise with MMS. Nokia officials said systems integrators are set to unveil plans by years end to develop enterprise applications for MMS beyond the often-touted "real estate application" of sending pictures of houses from a phone.

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