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By Thomas Hoffman
With 4G communication services such as Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMax just around the corner, the future of mobile computing looks bright for would-be corporate customers.
Over the next three-to-five years, improvements in network speeds and reliability as well as further enhancements to device features and the maturation of the mobile applications market will provide white and blue collar workers alike with greater mobile computing options from an ever-widening number of locations.
"From a CIO perspective, you're going to see the carriers come out with a lot more apps and services built around mobility," says Daryl Schoolar, an analyst at In-Stat in Phoenix.
CIOZone interviewed a dozen CIOs, analysts and product managers to get an in-depth look at how the mobile computing market is expected to evolve through 2014. Here's what we found:
At the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona last month, a group of vendors such as Nortel and Orange who are behind the so-called LTE SAE Trial Initiative announced the results of their Proof of Concept test phase. More than 80 areas of wireless network performance were gathered and measured from eight vendors involved in the initiative, including Voice over IP capabilities as well as data upload and download speeds.
Although LTE testing has yielded promising results, including the ability for end users to run streaming video applications even during peak network congestion, the service is "not coming as fast as people may think" to North America, says Jack Gold, president of J. Gold Associates, LLC, a Northborough, MA-based technology analyst firm. Gold expects LTE will be delivered to just a handful of U.S. markets this year and won't be broadly deployed until at least 2012.
CIOs should also expect to see laptops equipped with built-in modems capable of handling faster LTE network speeds, says Schoolar. And while Blackberries, iPhones and other Smartphone devices won't necessarily run faster, says Schoolar, "they'll have more capacity" for downloading and operating mobile applications.
What this means is that within five years, it's altogether likely that Blackberry users could have devices equipped with Web cams that allow them to participate in videoconferences while they're on the road, says Schoolar.
But faster wireless networks will likely raise concerns for CIOs about how more ubiquitous data downloading via Blackberries and other mobile devices may become a big expense for their organizations, says Gold. "One of the compelling reasons why cable modems and DSL became so popular is that it's an 'All-You-Can-Eat' model where you can download as much as you want," notes Gold.
But when it comes to wireless networks, the potential for thousands or even millions of people downloading data at one time raises serious network congestion concerns, says Gold. As a result, if wireless network carriers make the pricing too attractive, says Gold, "too many people will be downloading data at any one time and stressing their networks."
Of course, big companies with thousands of mobile users such as Bank of America will have the leverage with carriers to lower downloading costs for individual users, he adds.
Next: WiMax for 100 million people by 2010