2001 a turning point for wireless Internet

The year ahead will be a turning point for mobile communications, predicts IBM network software subsidiary Tivoli.

The year ahead will be a turning point for mobile communications, predicts IBM network software subsidiary Tivoli.

SCMP.com - The firm believes that third-generation (3G) telecommunications services, due to hit the market in the second half of the year, will soon prove more popular than PC access.

Graeme Beardsell, Tivoli's director of Net generation management solutions, said 3G Internet would outpace the Web, with as many as one billion mobile users by 2003.

"In my experience in the sector, I've seen quite a bit of movement around 3G, and I think next year will be a watershed year, particularly with NTT DoCoMo making a splash," he said.

Research firm International Data Corp forecasts that by 2003, wireless Internet transactions will reach US$38 billion, with data services accounting for 55 percent of wireless traffic.

Over the past year, Tivoli has been moving its resources from office network management and into telecommunications services.

On December 13, the firm announced a partnership with Sweden's 3G pioneer Ericsson to develop mobile networking software for general packet radio service (GPRS) and 3G devices.

The system will enable wireless devices to be managed and updated remotely.

"We really do believe it will make a difference to consumers in that it will give them true out-of-the-box capability with mobile devices," said Mr Beardsell.

He said that the mobile device management (MDM) system would enable phone carriers or enterprises to deliver applications and data with a common look and feel, based on the user's profile. As with a Web site, the services would be available no matter what device the user accesses them with.

"That we believe is unique, and as far as we know, no one else in the market place is looking to provide that sort of management and tailoring capability," he said.

Tivoli's initial target for the new system will be telecommunications carriers using Ericsson switches and handsets. However, Mr Beardsell said that the reach would increase as more enterprises build wireless networks.

"Increasingly in the region and around the world, we're seeing other companies like banks, insurance companies and media companies taking more of a stake in purchasing devices," said Mr Beardsell.

The product will be available in Europe by the middle of next year and in Asia shortly after. The time frame could change though, depending on the regional rollout of 3G networks.

"We'll go through a range of development cycles, and there's certainly opportunities for beta testing or early release here in Asia Pacific if we get the appropriate interest," said Mr Beardsell.

Although a number of regional carriers have pledged to deploy 3G networks next year, there has been speculation over the market's readiness.

Mr Beardsell said that some scepticism was well founded, but that certain markets, such as the Philippines and Japan, would be on time.

"I know for a fact that NTT DoCoMo is planning to roll out 3G in June next year, and also PLDT in the Philippines is looking at rolling out 3G some time next year," he said. "Suffice to say, this product is not just 3G-specific."

Tivoli also supports so-called 2.5G and wireless application protocol devices.

Telecommunications carriers in Hong Kong and China have also announced their intent to rollout 3G services in the coming year.

To encourage widespread deployment, Ericsson and Tivoli plan to make the MDM system an open standard.

"What we think we've got is something so positive and so unique that we're pushing it out to the standards organisations," said Mr Beardsell.