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Nokia: Firms hot on Wi-Fi, cold on 3G

Mobility: Senior executives at Nokia say that today's enterprise customers want their mobile devices to support GPRS and Wi-Fi, but aren't much bothered about third-generation networks

Most businesses have little interest in buying 3G mobile phones at present, according to senior executives at Nokia.

Speaking at the mobile phone maker's Mobility conference in Monaco this week, senior director of product management Mauri Niininen said that the firms Nokia is speaking to are much keener to deploying devices based on 802.11b and GPRS.

"We haven't heard much interest in 3G from enterprise customers," said Niininen, adding that there was "pretty consistent feedback" from both large and small companies that 3G wasn't an issue today.

Niininen explained that chief information officers and IT managers want their staff to use cellular GPRS networks when they are on the move, and switch to the corporate Wi-Fi network when in the office.

Niininen's views were echoed by Niklas Savander, Nokia's senior VP of enterprise solutions, who said that 3G had yet to make a business case for itself.

"3G is yet to meet the needs of the CIO of a company," he said. "Timing-wise, the pull isn't there from enterprises yet."

Nokia already offers one mobile device that supports GPRS and Wi-Fi, the 9500.

"Most of our future enterprise devices will include Wi-Fi," Niininen promised.

In the UK, 3 is the only operator offering 3G phones today. It is about to be challenged by Vodafone, which will release details of its 3G handset range next Wednesday.

Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and O2 all offer 3G data cards today, which can be plugged into a laptop to allow high-speed mobile surfing.

While execs are doubtless hoping 3G's time will come eventually, users hoping for the advent of GPS look likely to have an even longer wait on their hands.

Niininen said that as mobile devices become more widespread, device management will become an "essential" part of some handsets. He added Nokia was already working with partners on the issue with a view to developing a way to "kill your device" -- render it unusable in the event of theft or loss.

Several companies, including MobileLocate and Mapaphone, have already launched tracking services aimed at corporates, both as a way to check staff are on the job when they say they are and to help recover lost devices and essential data they hold.

According to analyst firm IDC, while GPS isn't making much of a mark in Nokia's stomping ground of smart phones, the tracking technology is creeping onto PDAs. GPS attach rates stand at 50 per cent in Western Europe. The Netherlands and Denmark are leading the market, with over 80 per cent of PDAs packing a GPS unit.

Niininen said that workers objections are likely to be the biggest hurdle for GPS. "There are privacy issues -- staff have a feeling Big Brother is watching you. It will slow down adoption."

Jo Best writes for silicon.com.