Business needs 3G, says BP

Summary:BP's director of wireless and mobile says that remote workers need more bandwidth than GPRS can offer -- but a government push for 3G is unlikely

Mobile data technologies such as GPRS -- a so-called 2.5G standard -- just don't measure up to business needs anymore, according to one prominent user.

Speaking to ZDNet UK's sister site silicon.com, BP director of wireless and mobile Ken Douglas this week said GPRS works for email but doesn't cut it for collaboration, remote meetings and other needs. "Our applications need more speed," he said. "It's as simple as that."

The good news for BP and thousands of other enterprise users is that 3G is coming. The bad news is that not only does it invariably seem a tantalising 'year away' from most operators but it isn't about to become a government priority.

Speaking at the 3G Enterprise Alliance conference this week, minister of state for energy, e-commerce and postal services, Stephen Timms -- who has been a champion of broadband technologies such as ADSL and cable -- proclaimed: "3G is the next big step forward."

He even said he is an enthusiastic user of 3, Hutchison's UK venture and the country's first operator of a third-generation network.

However, there won't be the same government impetus behind 3G rollout as there was for broadband, with Timms saying that the government has no targets for 3G uptake and that the momentum will come from business itself.

That's hardly what BP's Douglas wants to hear. He puts the lack of widespread rollout down to several factors, including operators' focus on consumers.

"Operators aren't keen on just supplying raw bandwidth -- they'd rather sell services but bandwidth's what we need," he added. "We're big enough to look after ourselves in that respect. If there continues to be a reluctance on their part to meet business requirements, third-generation adoption will be slow."

It is a stance others in the industry, including equipment providers, agree with.

David Poticny, president Lucent Europe, said telcos are unaware of how to correctly market wireless services to businesses.

"There is some confusion about what operators are putting into the market. The high speed data industry is ready, the technology is ready [but] the demand is unserved," he said.

All the UK's mobile operators are working on PC cards that provide a simple 3G connection and others that combine GPRS, 3G and even wireless LAN connectivity, though notebook PCs increasingly come with integrated Wi-Fi.

Topics: Mobility

About

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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