IBM sets eyes on the wireless infrastructure business

Big Blue has over the last few decades gotten its fingers into many a pie. The recent years have seen the wireless technology and equipment pie grow larger and larger, and make no mistake - IBM is there.

Tony Ng Big Blue has over the last few decades gotten its fingers into many a pie. The recent years have seen the wireless technology and equipment pie grow larger and larger, and make no mistake - IBM is there. Wireless e-Business Manager Tony Ng makes it clear that any infrastructure that isn't 'robust, reliable and scalable' is nothing more than hype.

In terms of wireless technology, where does IBM see itself in the industry?
IBM's primary focus in wireless is on the wireless infrastructure business.

The wireless Internet, like Linux, has now matured beyond the initial hype and is at the stage where serious business decisions have to be made. With 3G licence auctions underway or in sight, 2001 will be the year where service providers turn their attention to building and scaling the infrastructure to support the commercial roll-out of new wireless data services that take advantage of the expanded capability made available by this evolution to 3G.

In order to do this, service providers first need to ensure that they have in place a 'robust, reliable and scalable IT infrastructure without this, the rest remains no more than hype.

Additionally, IBM has just announced the wireless enablement of our lines of products and services -- from mainframes to laptops and custom chips -- as a unique industry leader and with our partners -- totally committed to a networked world built on open standards. Specifically, we're looking at:

  • Wireless portables: wireless capability across our ThinkPad and WorkPad lines;
  • Wireless technology for IBM servers: new and advanced remote wireless management technology for IBM's entire eServer line
  • Wireless infrastructure services - IBM Global Services is introducing a new "Instant Wireless LAN" service to help companies quickly get up and running with wireless facilities
  • Wirelessly enabling components - IBM, with Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, is developing advanced low-power microchips for third-generation (3G) cellular telephones
  • Wireless partners effort - a variety of programs designed to bring wireless solutions to market through the company's network of 90,000 business partners;
  • Wireless education, training and certification, to build solution provider skills and training in delivering certified wireless e-business solutions.

    What are some of IBM's wireless solutions?
    Working directly with its telecommunications customers, IBM helps them become more competitive with innovative solutions for e-business. These solutions comprise the full range of IBM capabilities, including consulting, software, hardware, research and implementation services.

    Worldwide, IBM is also forging relationships with major players in the wireless market, including device manufacturers, like Palm, Symbian and Ericsson, and telecommunications equipment manufacturers Nokia, Motorola, Nortel, Alcatel and Lucent. Other relationships include a global alliance with Webraska, European-based leader in in mapping & wireless navigation services and technologies, for location-based services.

    Through these relationships, IBM will leverage the strength of its e-business infrastructure to bring a complete range of wireless solutions.

    IBM has an exciting software technology called Websphere Transcoding Publisher (WTP) that acts as a translator from content developed in HTML or XML into WML (WAP Markup Language) for the mobile phones, and HDML for the personal workpads. We have also made available DB2 Everyplace (database) and MQSeries Everywhere (message queuing software) to enable the enterprise workers to get easily connected to the backend databases and systems wherever they are.

    In the ASEAN region, we do have a number of ISVs and Net Gen companies that [uses] IBM's WebSphere Transcoding Publisher, all the service or content providers need to worry about is developing their content and WTP will then dynamically translate the content into WML/HDML- making them more productive to focus on making their applications and services more exciting.

    We see a growing demand for wireless applications in the areas that are time-critical, location-specific, or spontaneous in nature, such as email and instant messaging, banking and finance, news, entertainment ticketing, and location-based advertising services.

    Just 2 weeks ago, on May 16, Bank Buana of Indonesia announced a mobile banking service targetted at small & medium businesses in Indonesia withIBM and eMobile Pte Ltd, a Singapore-based company.

    Based on SMS (short messaging service) technology, the new service is an affordable and convenient wireless solution for customers to access financial information and conduct banking transactions through their mobile phone. SMS in Indonesia has revolutionized and shown a tremendous increase in the last 2 years.

    With the latest inter-operator SMS connection in Indonesia, sending SMS will get easier and become more popular. While providing similar level of services compared to typical Internet Banking solution, this Mobile Banking Solution is much easier to use since the GSM mobilephone is always available and ready to use, compared to a PC desktop or laptop, and compared to traditional telephone banking. Therefore, mobile banking delivers better interaction for customers.

    Last April, in Japan, we have worked with Japan Airlines and NTT DoCoMo to provide JAL's passengers who register with their mobile devices using NTT DoCoMo's"i-mode" technology are able to access services such as domestic travel reservations, confirmation of reservations, cancellations, e-ticket service, seat availability check, information on international arrivals and departures, mileage status and JAL's customer contact numbers. JAL's "i-mode reservation service" is powered by IBM pSeries Servers (formerly known as RS/6000) and IBM's MQ Series with IBM Global Services as the system developer and integrator.

    Last October, United Overseas Bank of Singapore's new wireless banking services were built on IBM's transcoding technology, pSeries Servers (former RS/6000), xSeries Servers (former IBM Netfinity), as well as our development expertise.

    Through these new banking services, UOB's customers can now link up with to inquire about their UOB credit card and personal bank accounts, and IPO applications; transact immediate or scheduled bill payments; change credit card limits and their personal indentification numbers (PIN); buy and sell unit trusts; make restaurant and taxi reservations; and access various lifestyle information, such as currency exchange. No fancy equipment needed, just their choice of communication devices such as laptops, mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and personal computers (PCs).

    In terms of infrastructure, operating costs and mobile take-up, what challenges do all companies face?
    The major challenges that face all industries in this region in moving to mobile or wireless commerce are knowing that they can deliver business transactions in a robust and reliable environment quickly, accurately, securely and in volume.

    This predicates the need for organisations to establish an e-infrastructure that has all the characteristics that I mentioned earlier together with the essential added characteristic of delivering uncompromising levels of security as demanded by a genuinely commercial environment.

    More about Top 20 Telecoms' Outlook.