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Carriers to offer industry-specific wireless services

Carriers are teaming with third party software and service providers to offer customized wireless business apps.

The wireless technology market is beginning to mature and enterprises will soon see a slew of new industry-specific wireless services being offered over wide area networks (WANs), analysts said.

Tim Scannell, founder and chief analyst with Shoreline Research, a Quincy, Mass., consulting firm specializing in wireless technology, said these applications will begin to emerge as wireless service providers team up with third-party software vendors who tailor their products to the individual business models.

"I think that most of the enterprise people have already explored Wi-Fi and wireless LANs (WLANs), and they know about productivity through wireless PDA," Scannell said. "But now they're looking at delivering services through wireless carriers."

At first, most services offered via wireless carriers will focus on customer relationship management for retail industries. But the variety of applications available will soon expand to cover the business needs of the health care, financial services and manufacturing segments, Scannell said.

The analyst also said several major factors are driving interest in carrier-provided wireless business applications. One of the most important reasons is getting employees out in the field and working face-to-face with customers and business partners.

"No one is tethered to a desk anymore," Scannell said. "There is this big push to get people out toward the customers and dealing with more customer-facing duties."

Another reason for the interest in carrier-provided wireless business apps is that wide area wireless is seen as -- and actually is -- more secure than traditional WLANs.

"The (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) is working on making WLANs better, but they will always be inherently insecure," Scannell said.

A third reason for the interest is that the services provided are becoming faster, more robust and more reliable than they had been in the past. They're also more targeted at individual business needs, because of increasing collaboration between carriers and third parties.

"In order for carriers to differentiate their services so that business will go to them, they have to partner with the right solutions providers," Scannell said. "And a lot of them are doing that right now."

One of those third-party vendors is the Broadbeam Corp., in Cranbury, N.J. Broadbeam works in conjunction with wireless carriers, device manufacturers, systems integrators and application providers to offer end-user companies a customized mobile infrastructure.

"What they will do is go into a customer and they'll be able to draw a strategic map of what their technology needs, and provide the technology pieces to fit in," Scannell said.

Another company making strides in this area is XcelleNet Inc., which was recently acquired by Sybase Inc. Among other things, XcelleNet works with wireless carriers to provide business services via mobile phone.

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