3G Wireless

3G wireless is coming, first abroad then here, bringing with it much faster speeds. But some worry if the applications are ready for it.

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"The importance of 3G to the enterprise is clear," says analyst Craig Mathias at The Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass. "3G means anything that land lines can do, wireless can do."

With such a lofty potential, Mathias and Reiter say companies should begin planning how 3G wireless will impact their worlds. U.S. banks are already testing systems that allow customers to use wireless phones and handheld devices for personal transactions. Customers of Bank of America Corp. in Charlotte, N.C., can check their balances on Palm VII devices, and Citibank in New York allows customers to handle transactions using nearly any device in four countries, Mathias says.

And online brokerages are enabling wireless trading.


But Zohar throws a wet blanket on some 3G applications. For example, he calls wireless videoconferencing "overkill." He also says U.S. carriers won't invest billions of dollars in 3G infrastructure to address a niche market for high-speed laptop wireless access, especially since so many wireline and wireless LAN options are available.

Some providers hint that 3G technology may make possible a "world phone" -- a system that would allow travelers to have voice and data access from a single device anywhere.

But the Federal Communications Commission hasn't even allocated radio spectrum to handle 3G in the U.S., and Mathias says it's "very unlikely" that there will be global commonality.

Still, some analysts say U.S. businesses will want to pay attention to 3G just because the wireless applications already in use make good business sense even at snail-like speeds. "Right now you can access virtually any text-based information in a corporate server from a wireless device and it isn't rocket science to set it up," says Reiter. "And the return on investment for such a project is less than a year."

Competition or Confusion?

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