How companies are using wireless networks

Summary:There is much hype surrounding the potential of next-generation wireless networks such as HSPDA, but are businesses really buying into the technology?

Within two years, organisations will deploy 3G and 3.5G networks as the norm, providing them with the means to exploit demand for more sophisticated mobile applications such as videoconferencing.

These are the findings of a study undertaken by ZDNet.co.uk in association with market researcher Rhetorik Market Intelligence, among 371 UK-based organisations with some degree of mobility within their workforce.

The survey also indicated that the adoption of high-speed data networks is already an important fact of life for many companies, particularly large companies. Of those organisations that were aware of which networks they subscribed to, more than half (53 percent) had deployed 3G in the shape of the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS).

One in five organisations — about half of which were large corporates — had even deployed some form of 3.5G technology, which would appear to indicate that increasing numbers of mobile users are driving demand for higher bandwidth. About 16 percent of respondents had employed High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) technology among some user groups, while four percent had gone for High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA).

Moreover, around half of those questioned expect these adoption figures to rise over the next couple of years, as they begin to take more advantage of either 3G or 3.5G technologies until eventually it becomes the default.

UMTS began to appear on the scene from 2003 and provides typical transmission speeds of 384Kbps (kilobits per second). Since 2006, however, mobile operators have been progressively upgrading their networks to HSDPA, which supports download speeds of 1.8, 3.6, 7.2 and 14.4Mbps (megabits per second). Although work is less advanced on HSUPA, this network can theoretically offer upload speeds of 5.7 Mbps.

Despite these advances, about two-thirds of those questioned are still subscribing to more traditional technologies — often alongside newer ones — although the usage of such lower-bandwidth networks is expected gradually to fall over time.

Some 68 percent of organisations that knew which networks they were deploying currently use Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) or 2G technology, which first became available in Europe in 1991. About 66 percent also subscribe to General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) or 2.5G data networks.

GPRS networks are based on packet-switching technology and overlay GSM to provide download rates of between 60Kbps and 80Kbps, and upload rates of between 20Kbps and 10Kbps. This compares with the relatively low data-transfer speeds of 9.6Kbps provided by GSM, which is based on circuit-switched connections.

Encouraging results
Rick Paskins, managing director at Rhetorik, says: "Companies are using a broad spread of networks and often have multiple technologies in use for different applications and different users within the enterprise. However, it is encouraging to note that implementation of higher-bandwidth technologies is already significant, despite the delays in rolling out 3G in the early part of this decade."

As to why more organisations are choosing not to upgrade the speed of their network connections now that this is possible, the main inhibitors relate to cost and security issues. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said that airtime/online fees were either an important or very important barrier to adoption, while just over two-thirds were put off by the cost of upgrading their existing business applications. The same number was also wary of the increased sophistication and price of new devices.

Potential security threats brought about by increasing levels of remote access to business applications were a cause for concern among 65 percent of respondents, while other significant worries were linked to device management and support issues.

But such anxieties were offset to a certain extent by the potential benefits faster connections could provide with regard to remote and home users. Nearly three-quarters of those questioned believed...

Topics: Tech Industry

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