Mobile industry admits failing businesses

3GSM: Key figures in the mobile industry have admitted they could be doing more for business users, rather than paying too much attention to video and mobile TV services

Speaking on Tuesday, the second day of the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, chief executives from leading mobile companies have acknowledged the industry is not doing enough to meet the needs of enterprise customers, especially when it comes to issues such as billing and support.

Lothar Pauly, president and chief executive of Siemens Communications, said that the mobile industry needs to increase its focus when it comes to serving business users and not divert all its attention to on developments such as video and mobile TV in the consumer space.

Pauly claimed that the sheer number of operators involved in a remote worker's life --one for their mobile phone, one for fixed office telephony, one for wireless Internet access and one for fixed broadband access at home -- made it almost impossible for budget controllers to keep track of costs.

"Enterprise customers want to be able to control their communication costs but today mobile professionals are supported by four or five different operators for working remotely" Pauly said.

Some companies such as iPass -- which offers a packaged approach to mobile access and billing -- are addressing access management for remote users but this is an exception rather than the rule.

Rene Obermann, chief executive of mobile operator T-Mobile, said that the industry would do well to remember that the original early adopters of mobile technology -- and they may well be the future for richer mobile services.

"One in five European workers... spends significant time [working] out of the office. That's over 33 million workers and it's increasing fast," Obermann said. "I think that this is a somewhat underestimated market."

Obermann added that the next challenge for the mobile industry was to effectively "cut the wire to the PC" and let users access all the applications they have in an office environment via their mobile. "This is going to require a lot of focus by the industry," he said.

T-Mobile claims to be delivering on this promise of an increased focus on business. The company announced an addition its "Office in your Pocket" product line on Tuesday: the MDA IV, in cooperation with Microsoft, which supports GPRS, 3G and Wi-Fi.

"What [mobile workers] need is their office when they are out of their office. And that's what we're doing, literally putting your Office in your Pocket," said T-Mobile.

MDA IV, which T-Mobile calls a "mini-laptop", includes a 520Mhz Intel processor and runs Windows Mobile. The tri-band device, operating on the 900MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz GSM networks, should enable business users to work in the US, Europe and Asia.

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