Corporates don't want 3G Britney

Are 3G mobile services a corporate competitive advantage or needless luxury?

commentary Australia's mobile carriers are currently trying desperately to shove their shiny new third-generation (3G) networks down consumers' throats.
Renai LeMay, ZDNet Australia

The claimed benefits to upgrading from the legacy networks mainly used for voice and SMS are endless. TV direct to your mobile, video calling, mobile Web browsing, e-mail. The list goes on.

Yesterday your writer flipped open his handset and discovered he could even get the latest news of Britney and K-Fed's impending divorce with just one tap.

Who could want for more?

Of course, none of these extra features are attractive to the large companies and government agencies who are Australia's largest bulk users of mobile phone services.

For example, the Australian Federal Police has a fleet of some 2500 handsets, but you can bet the force doesn't want its officers watching the Ashes via their mobile while on the job.

Even features such as mobile Web browsing and e-mail don't really fit into the corporate picture unless they can be integrated with companies' existing enterprise collaboration and filtering systems. This is why Research in Motion's BlackBerry device has been so successful -- it takes advantage of new technologies but doesn't rock the boat.

Nevertheless, there are some indications that large organisations are starting to find 3G attractive.

When Telstra launched its nationwide Next G network in October, the telco's boss of its enterprise and government unit, David Thodey, said his division had already signed up 23 large customers for the network, consisting of nearly 10,000 services. On that list were Mission Australia, Century Drilling and Downer EDI.

And just this week, the Australian Federal Police specified that any new handsets it purchases for its mobile phone fleet must be 3G capable.

While the AFP is keeping mum on why 3G is a must, there are some obvious benefits, including transferring large image and video files at a crime scene while on the road. I guess on the job training from CSI re-runs could also be an option.

Now of course, whether they like it or not, every large organisation will be forced to use 3G sooner or later as the 2G networks are eventually phased out. But one could surmise that CIOs at some of these early adopters are looking to gain a competitive advantage by jumping on board before that time.

The increased bandwidth that 3G offers certainly bring some interesting applications into play -- for example Telstra is offering software from Dexterra that allows applications such as SAP and Siebel to run on mobile phones. Then there's vendors like Salesforce.com that have long seen the need for solutions that work outside the office.

It's likely that organisations with such specialised mobile needs will adopt 3G speedily now that its ubiquitous around Australia, while others will hold on their legacy devices until they reach end of life status.

What do you think about 3G mobile services -- a corporate competitive advantage or a needless luxury? Drop me a line directly at renai.lemay@zdnet.com.au or post your opinion below this article.

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