• United States



by David Meredith

Ignoring Data Services Will Leave Your Enterprise Out in the Cold

Mar 04, 20049 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

In the past, enterprises have had about as much interest in the latest Blink-182 ring tones as you do in the (loud) conversation the teenager sitting next to you on the subway is having on her hot pink handset.

But consider this:

  • Wired magazine’s Lucas Graves claims the market for ‘mobile field sales applications and services’ will grow eightfold, to $1 billion, over the next four years.
  • Small and medium-sized businesses with wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) “hotspots” were expected to realize additional revenues of $59 million in 2003, growing to $3.1 billion by 2008 (ABI Research).
  • Companies that have deployed wireless devices to their mobile workforces (technicians, sales people, etc.) have realized significant cost savings by providing mobile access to their home office systems.

In other words, all those “blips” and “bleeps”, the ring tones and the rollover minutes, the portability and the picture-phones that have swarmed the retail market scene hold some important lessons for your enterprise. As data services become more intertwined with your workers’ daily lives, employees will become more adept at, and even expect, data services at work as well. Therefore, it is imperative to begin implementing data services in your enterprise to increase savings, productivity, revenue and competitive value in the marketplace. With increased workforce mobility, wireless data services will gain importance in the day-to-day operations and company efficiency.

Currently, some major data services technology trends include:

  • Introducing Wi-Fi systems into local offices.
  • Consolidating voice and Internet Protocol (IP) data networks; that is, moving wireline voice traffic to existing corporate data networks and using other, new IP-based services.
  • Integration of wireless and wireline technologies to support a completely flexible and interchangeable work environment. For example, IP phones that can work over a wired or a wireless data access point, depending on what is most convenient.

Lost between 2.5 and 3G? Unsure of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)? Waiting to see what other enterprises do first? You should reconsider. Companies that don’t form an action plan now will ultimately face higher costs and lower productivity the longer they wait. Data services have arrived, and early adopters are already realizing cost savings by using them.

Upwardly Mobile

Imagine never again having to crawl under a hotel desk for a phone jack, stand tethered to a payphone to check email, or miss a deadline because you couldn’t log on remotely to send a file. Imagine having in the office a one-stop-shop network that provides you quick and easy data and voice transmissions and seamless video conferencing. And imagine paying less for these services than what your current providers charge.

Data services make these scenarios possible. Here are some technologies you need to be investigating and why:

Unlicensed Spectrum: Also known as “open spectrum,” “unlicensed spectrums” are small, free wireless networks. They do not require a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license and include services such as personal area networks (PANs) like BlueTooth and ultra wideband (UWB) that allow devices to “talk” to one another within a short range; metropolitan area networks (MANs) that interconnect users in a geographic area whose size falls between a local area network (LAN) and a wide area network (WAN); and the fast-growing wireless LANs or “Wi-Fi.”

Wi-Fi is often used to link multiple computers within a building or campus setting, and is already achieving great popularity in households for wireless surfing-more than 64 million systems are expected to be sold this year, up from 24 million in 2002, according to IDC. Wi-Fi key benefits include mobility, ease of installation in difficult-to-wire areas; reduced installation time over wired networks; reduced long term costs, due to ease of reconfiguration (important for office moves, etc.); and reduced installation time (as compared with wired networks).

Licensed Spectrum: Wireless telecommunications carriers purchase FCC licenses and use licensed spectrums for wireless phone and voice access you might currently use. Despite unlicensed spectrum communications growth, licensed spectrum is still the norm, providing reliable and secure data and voice traffic with little interference. And while providers must pay for licensed spectrum, competition is making wireless products cheaper for the end consumer, i.e. free minutes and free phones. As licensed broadband wireless becomes mainstream, the prices of associated equipment will decrease.

Fixed Wire Network Access: While Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and cable modems are rapidly gaining market share in the retail/home office space, most companies have also been upgrading their own telecom infrastructure to meet the growing demands of their workforce for fast, reliable network access. This new network infrastructure provides many opportunities for consolidation and for deployment of new services, such as VoIP, to support your workforce. Telecommunications providers started utilizing IP networks to introduce new products, typically for a lower price, to both commercial and retail customers.

Ultimately, implementing these technologies will help you:

Save money. In the data services world, one is company and two is a crowd: having one network for voice and data transmission instead of two saves money. IP-based technologies use existing fixed wire systems for both voice and data-voice consolidation. A corporation can carry both voice and data on its private WAN and achieve significant savings with the reduction of “external” voice traffic. For business customers these technologies reduce maintenance costs, boost efficient operation of call centers, and poise the enterprise for evolving applications such as IP multimedia and IP video.

Wi-Fi saves money because it makes information systems (IS) configuration/ reconfiguration faster and easier, makes employees more productive faster, and gives travelers immediate network access. Additionally, Wi-Fi deployment in office spaces can be significantly less expensive than running wires. Adoption of products based on unlicensed spectrum could help propagate “wireless broadband” into rural areas or areas with limited population.

Boost productivity. Every year businesses lose productivity through common headaches like connecting office workers to corporation wireline networks and managing equipment and office moves. As data services move from 2.5 to 3G and even 4G, and as products based on unlicensed spectrum are adopted, a combination of different wireless services will help get things done faster and more reliably. Wireless data services in particular can save mobile workers time by allowing them to share information in real time, e.g. to file reports, track inventory or access corporate Intranets remotely. Not only do the workers and the company benefit from the convenience, but so do the “customers”-say, children in protective services whose case workers can track their safety via handhelds.

Increase revenue. It’s not just your employees who are becoming accustomed to the wireless life outside of work. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, six million people buy something online every day, and millions more use the Internet for research and reservations-and more are doing so “wirelessly.” Retail outlets from McDonalds to Starbucks, and even some restaurant chains, use Wi-Fi to attract more customers and increase revenue. Enterprises that quickly adapt to data services and provide more accurate information in real time stand to gain an expanded customer base.

Remain competitive. As mobile workers and new ways to leverage communications infrastructures increase, having a single, IP-based network will become essential in helping companies stay ahead of the competition. Wi-Fi hotspots are already being offered in high-density, privately controlled locations such as airport lounges, hotel lobbies and coffee shops-the same places your competitors visit when they travel. As data services make the Internet more convenient, enterprises that can provide fast and easy access to customers, partners, vendors and employees, will move ahead.

Getting Started

There are a number of ways that a CIO can begin to implement data services:

  1. Check your current infrastructure. How much could you save by consolidation of your telecom infrastructure? What data connections within your enterprise would be better served by wireless than wireline networks? How would you increase the responsiveness of your enterprise by capitalizing on data coming in “real time,” for example, through wireless devices?
  2. Research provider competition. Providers are scrambling to prepare new data service offerings. ATT’s David Dorman stated recently that all their traffic would eventually be IP-based. BellSouth announced VoIP for business last October, and Verizon also will expand into retail voice over DSL in 2004. Smaller, independent companies like Vonage already offer VoIP to consumers and businesses, and cable companies are gearing up to take on telecoms head-on in the data services space. Get up to speed on the best services you could utilize from your providers.
  3. Ask your employees. What services are the most important to them to help them sell, support, or serve the customer even better than they do today? What are competitors’ mobile staffs using at trade shows and in airport lounges? What are your employees-particularly your mobile staff-using for Internet, cable and phone at home? What is the feedback on various services and providers? Do employees use separate hardware and services for work and home, or do they share services and itemize/expense them, and why?
  4. Become adept at adapting. Charles Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most responsive to change.” Consider incorporating a testing and learning environment to help the company adapt as technology moves forward and changes.

Whether it is by consolidating your fixed wire networks, removing fixed wires from leased access space to save money, or providing a wireless-enabled B2B portal through which your customers can order products from you, data services and the supporting infrastructure will grow your business and reduce your costs.

Data services are arriving-and more quickly than you think. Wireless starting from 2.5G (GPRS) is all IP-based; 3G wireless is being implemented and a preparing a 4G rollout with higher bandwidth and more advanced products and services has started. Each generation brings an increase in bandwidth together with new products, services and business opportunities. If you want to save money, increase productivity and revenue, and stay ahead of your competitors, your time for data services is 2004.

David Meredith is Vice President for AMS’s Communications, Media and Entertainment practice. In this role, he heads up the company’s business intelligence/customer interaction efforts, building strategic, enterprise-wide IT solutions for telecommunications firms. For more information on data services, contact