Mobility mindset key to driving 3G for businesses

Industry watchers say adoption of 3G depends largely on how mobile Asian companies want to be.

SINGAPORE--It is not the technology, but the mindsets of workers, that will determine how fast 3G will take off in the corporate market, according to industry observers.

What this means is, businesses will first of all need to embrace the concept of mobility and establish a strategy to do so, said IDC analyst Alayne Wong.

Echoing her views, MobileOne's spokesperson Chua Swee Kiat, noted that 3G supports the concept of a "mobile office". He hailed the technology as "especially relevant for companies whose staff are not deskbound, and who are constantly on the move".

While telecommunications players say 3G benefits both consumers and businesses in pretty much the same ways, they point to bandwidth-intensive applications, such as video conferencing, as services that will be more popular in the corporate sector.

StarHub, which evangelizes video streaming and faster downloads in its 3G offerings, said the extensive download capability of 3G promises to help corporate users access data easily, and communicate from multiple locations.

"3G is certainly a massive improvement over the GPRS (general radio packet service) connection for mobile workers, particularly for those who need to download files before a meeting or (remotely) access information on their corporate networks," explained Chan Kin Hung, StarHub's head of mobile services.

According to a spokesperson from SingTel, the carrier is currently looking at 3G-based services that target the corporate market, such as mobile point-of-sale. The service allows retailers to set up point-of-sale terminals at temporary sales or outdoor venues, such as warehouse sales and promotions.

SingTel also believes that surveillance is another application that will be of interest to businesses. The spokesperson said cameras can be placed at both fixed locations and on moving vehicles and objects, where companies can monitor their goods and conduct repairs via video-streaming.

Rosy 3G future?
M1's Chua noted that the take-up rate of 3G has been "growing", even though it is "still early days". He added that more 3G-based corporate solutions should be available in future as the technology becomes more prevalent.

Service providers also point out that, besides changing business mindsets, there are other considerations to look at in order to drive 3G in the enterprise market.

In deciding whether to adopt 3G, organizations are likely to consider the technology's "usefulness, pricing and the ease of integration with their current business infrastructure," said a SingTel spokesperson.

StarHub's Chan added that handset size and weight, and the types of content and services are some other factors that will further affect the adoption rate.

Wong at IDC pointed out that 3G has achieved success in Korea, and is "picking up" in countries such as Australia and Hong Kong. In comparison, the 3G penetration in Singapore has been "slow", but she estimated that there will be growth in this market "over the next five years".

Concurring with Wong's forecast, StarHub's Chan expressed optimism of a "mass adoption" once handsets become "simpler and lighter", and when "compelling applications and services" exist in a competitively-priced environment.

"What really matters is how 3G can reduce turnaround time (for businesses) and increase their productivity," he said.