3G: No killer app, more a killer cocktail

IT Priorities Conference: Access to mobile broadband connectivity will be 3G's main draw, but there won't be a compelling 'one size fits all' application

Third-generation (3G) mobile networks won't produce a single new 'killer' application that will tempt companies onboard in droves.

Instead, different sectors will see their own unique opportunities in the high-speed mobile networks that are currently being rolled out by UK operators, according to experts at Tuesday's ZDNet UK IT Priorities Conference in London.

"There will be different applications for police forces than for estate agents than for agricultural workers," said Stephen Flaherty, mobile consultant at Keitai Culture, who was appearing at a panel session.

"Companies need to look at 3G to see what the opportunity is for their business, and their niche. Each industry must look for its own killer application," he added.

Malcolm Mitchell, former chief information officer for Vodafone and panel chair, summarised this view as "not a single killer, more a bunch of muggers".

Both Flaherty and Anne Bouverot, vice-president of infrastructure services at Orange, agreed that the most important advantage conveyed by 3G was that it would give access to corporate networks to people on the move.

"3G enables a lot of things because it brings broadband access to the mobile space. This isn't a killer application, but it's a chance for users to reach much more content," said Bouverot.

On Tuesday, O2 became the fifth UK mobile operator to launch a 3G service. Mike Short, O2's vice-president of technology, told the audience that he felt the very term "killer application" was inappropriate for a mobile industry that is young and thriving.

He backed up Flaherty's claim that different firms will be able to derive a wide range of benefits from 3G, around the general theme of mobility.

"Companies can mobilise their business from the outside in, and make their staff more efficient when they're out and about. Or they can work from the inside out, and get their head office costs down, get a better field force, better location-based services to track vehicles, or a better database," said Short.

Although this could be good news for enterprises, workers could suffer. Bouverot suggested that some employees might not like being put in a position where they can be expected to work at more times in more locations.

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