Wireless capabilities have improved, but we're still a long way from the truly mobile enterprise.

Someday, we'll all be connected to a high-speed, ubiquitous wireless mobile network 24 hours a day, and it will change they way we work, the way we play, and the way we interact with everyone. This seamless, wireless fabric will connect every short- and long-range technology—Bluetooth, WiFi, WLAN, WiMax, 3G, satellite and just about any other wireless mobile technology that comes along—and will automatically switch you from one to another depending on where you are and what connections are available. As you leave the office at the end of the day, your handheld or laptop will automatically leap from your company's wireless LAN to your cell phone provider's 3G network; when you arrive home, it will seamlessly connect to your home WiFi network.

Think about what this could mean for your business. The significant reduction of downtime, for starters. You could collaborate with fellow engineers as you revise the latest CAD drawings of your company's forthcoming product line—while you're waiting to see your dentist. Or edit your firm's newest television commercial while you're sitting on the subway. Or be able to instantly change the price of your top-selling product to meet demand as you wait for your plane to board. The goal of mobility: Work never has to stop, employees are never idle, and productivity can be maximized.

Now imagine how such a network could transform your everyday life. You could record a lengthy digital video of your daughter's birthday party from your handheld and send it instantly to her grandmother, who lives 3,000 miles away. On a weekend road trip, your kids could access feature-length movies over the Internet to keep them occupied—and quiet—in the backseat. You could download roadmaps, check real-time traffic and even make online purchases—all from your handheld or laptop, whether you're on a bus or a train, strolling down Main Street, or camping in the woods.

Unfortunately, we are still many years away from such a world. Despite the increasing demand for mobile technology—which, in the past three months, has led just about every wireless telecom carrier to announce plans for upgraded cellular services by the end of this year—the realization of a true, mobile broadband network that operates as reliably as traditional broadband still eludes us, and probably will for some time. We've gotten better at portable mobility—the ability to take your laptop to the airport, to a conference, or to Starbucks and connect it to a WiFi network, for example. WiFi has given people a taste for wireless broadband, but it's a short-range technology meant for stationary workers confined to a physical area of only a few hundred feet. Once you leave that hotspot, you're no longer connected—and that doesn't qualify as truly mobile.

There's no doubt that companies want greater mobility. IDC predicts that the number of untethered workers connecting to internal systems through mobile laptops and handheld devices will increase from 650 million, in 2004, to more than 850 million, in 2009—a quarter of the global workforce. Gartner estimates that by 2010 there will be three billion subscribers to mobile services worldwide. And according to an August CIO Insight research report, 60 percent of companies that currently support mobile technology plan to increase their spending on mobility within the next 12 months. But the questions remain: How will companies wring the most value out of ubiquitous wireless broadband, whatever form it ultimately takes? And how will a truly wireless mobile broadband network change the way they do business?

This article was originally published on 11-05-2005
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.

Click for a full list of Newsletterssubmit