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Should You Tap WAP?

Maybe WAP is ready for the big-screen after all
Written by Jacqueline Emigh, Contributor

Sure, you've read the industry reports in the past year prognosticating a boom in wireless Internet devices. But unlike past technology flavors of the month, it appears the analysts are right on target with wireless.

Learning about the intricacies of the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) and Bluetooth al ready can lead to bigger bucks. Consider this: Smart phone apps in the WAP space are just now getting up and going. At the same time, older wireless networks such as Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD) are seeing more and more use. And as customers begin accessing the Net via wireless devices (see chart, direct right), businesses need help ad justing infrastructure and content to accommodate the increase.

"Opportunities are everywhere, because all kinds of applications are be coming wirelessly enabled," says Tamara Gruber, director of marketing for wireless Web hoster Broadbeam.

It's not that wireless integration is an entirely new field, exactly. For example, Boca Raton, Fla.-based Wireless Data Systems (WDS) has been in business since 1996. WDS has been adding its own software to handheld data terminals for inventory and fleet-tracking applications used by well-known customers like British Airlines, Motorola, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Sony. The company's also been installing wireless LANs, notes WDS president David Whitt.

But the landscape is changing. Most notably, the boom in wireless Web users is luring big-name integrators, such as iXL, MarchFirst, Razorfish and Sapient, into the fray. And for good reason: Wireless integration pros currently are being billed out at $200 to $300 per hour, according to an informal Sm@rt Partner salary survey.

Why so much? Wireless integrators must deal with a wide array of hardware and software environments that rarely crop up in other kinds of deployments. On the device side, for instance, it's useful and sometimes necessary to know about the specific characteristics of WAP phones, Palms, Psions, notebook PCs, Windows CE and PocketPC devices, and units that have been specially "ruggedized" for field use.

Wireless networks also are fraught with different capabilities. For example, thanks to the 802.11 standard, wireless Ethernet LANs can now operate at up to 11Mbps, delivering about the same bandwidth as most wired LANs. It's quite a different story, however, for wired WANs. Networks like CDPD or GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) rarely exceed 10Kbps, for bandwidth only a fraction as high as that on POTS lines.

"Wireless is a skill set that is difficult to acquire and not yet widely available," insists Dean Hopkins, CEO at Toronto-based solutions provider Cyberplex.

But if demand continues, it could be your rainmaker for years to come.

Low-End Wireless Pros:

Annual cost to reseller

Salary $63,000

Office space $7,000

Benefits $12,000

Training $7,500

Total $89,500

Total days worked 240

Optimum billable rate 80 percent or 192 days@ 8 hours/day=1,536 hours

1,536 hours x $200/hour= $ 307,200

Profit $ 217,700

High-End Wireless Pros:

Annual cost to reseller

Salary $150,000

Office space $7,000

Benefits $25,000

Training $4,500

Total $186,500

Total days worked 230

Optimum billable rate 80 percent or 184 days@ 8 hours/day= 1,472 hours

1,472 hours x $300/hour= $441,600

Profit $255,100

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