Wireless LANs might have won fans as an inexpensive mobility solution, but mobile broadband services will attract more attention as they become pervasive over the next five years, according to Gartner’s Asia-Pacific research director Robin Simpson.
"Public hotspots are not enough for enterprises and are frankly a failure," Simpson said. "The target market prepared to pay for mobile broadband is enterprise 'outbound' workers like sales representatives.
"Enterprises are not enticed by the idea of going to Starbucks to get wireless Internet access so I don't see a rosy future for (public) hotspots as they require massive infrastructure investments."
Simpson said carriers can easily deploy mobile broadband as it leverages existing infrastructure and sits alongside the spectrum they own. "The technology is compelling and the iBurst trial in Sydney has had a positive response," he said.
"Enterprises are prepared to pay a premium for this service as it has a clear return on investment. Mobile broadband will be a big feature of life in five years' time." Simpson said the only down sides to mobile broadband is the lack of standards and support in notebooks, but "people aren't fussed as it's not a problem for the target market".
That said, Simpson doesn't believe mobile broadband will replace wireless LANs within five years as the latter are "really good" at providing access to data within close areas.
In facilitating a true mobile data revolution, Simpson believes battery technology will have a "dramatic effect".
"Notebooks still only have a few hours of battery life so fuel cells will get around the portability problem," he said.
In the hunger for mobile data, smartphones won't displace notebooks, Simpson said.
"The jury is still out. Smartphones are starting to get good battery life, form factors and user interfaces, but they will never replace a notebook or PDA." Simpson is yet to be convinced that mobile multimedia delivery will take off due to the packet charging rates we have in Australia.
"In five years' time they will have reached a level of sophistication making them useable," he said. "The Microsoft and Palm smartphone platforms are open to application development which will be of most importance to enterprises." Regarding converged voice and data applications as a result of uptake in VoIP, Simpson said this will not be the most significant driver for the technology over the next five years.
"Convergence needs to provide a big improvement in the way people do their jobs before it takes off," he said. "The interest is in reducing the cost of telephony and converged applications is not the driver."