Everything Is Negotiable
There are other ways that wireless doesn't have to blow the budget. Companies are always hard-pressed to talk about project costs, but off the record they make it clear that everything is negotiable when it comes to wireless. If you run gateway software in your own data center, you're going to have to spend a lot of money paying software licensing and maintenance fees. Instead, you might want to consider outsourcing this from a wireless service provider. Among the firms that rent out such services are NetByTel, Informio, VocalPoint and Voicemate.
More complex wireless projectsinvolving multiple forms of wireless accesscan start at $100,000 per CPU and run to more than $1 million in software licensing and XML link-ups alone. On the other hand, projects that involve voice-only wireless access simply charge you a monthly fee for services.
Overall, besides being cheaper, wireless can be up and running quickly. In many cases, from start to finish, creating wireless access can take just two to six weeks.
Whatever you decide to do, though, keep it simple. A wireless system is like two tin cans connected with invisible string. It's the stuff in the cans on each end of the string that really counts. The stringwhat it costs to transmit data through the aircan vary, but don't get caught up in all the special deals and fancy plans. Simply treat wireless phone service as a monthly budgeting item, and then forget about it.
Concentrate your brain matter, instead, on the devices you deploy out in the fieldand the software you'll need in your data center so those wireless devices can tap into it. These things will make up the bulk of your wireless installation bill: In the field, you've got to plan for and accommodate the portable device's smaller keyboards and displays. Back in the data center, you've got to forge links to existing applications that pre-date the wireless revolution.
If your wireless project requires teaming up with a wireless signal carrier, don't be daunted by the array of wireless companies and the complexity of all the technologies they offer. The popular press loves to speculate over whether whizzy new technologies like 2.5/3G, GSM, TDMA or EDGE will win the most favor. My advice here is to avoid getting caught up in the alphabet soup. Instead, think geography. Choose a carrier that will best serve the places where your people work. Carriers will deploy what they will, where they will and when they will, so you really only have control over which company is the best local provider.
Bottom line? Be careful. Regulatory issues, such as who owns the spectrum, will complicate everything. Also, since carrier deployment plans change with every merger and acquisition, never marry a carrier or a single wireless technology. Use short-term leases and contracts, but don't overcommit. A better deal is bound to be just around the corner.
But you're not out of the woods yet. Here's something else to consider early on: Must your wireless users have information on a screen, or can they get it in spoken form?