Seamless Global Roaming? Don't Make Me Laugh - InformationWeek
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1/22/2007
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Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Seamless Global Roaming? Don't Make Me Laugh

We hate to burst your bubble, but there's just no way wireless enterprise users will be able to roam the entire globe without hitting a few snags here and there. Yet.

We hate to burst your bubble, but there's just no way wireless enterprise users will be able to roam the entire globe without hitting a few snags here and there. Yet.It's not to say that there aren't solutions to the issue of global roaming. It's definitely doable. The problem, however, doesn't really lie with the technology. Honestly, the technology is almost there. The problem lies with the network owners and operators, and, to an extent, governments. This is why organizations like the Mobile Enterprise Alliance have formed programs like the "Global Roaming & Authentication Initiative" to help spur change. The MEA has sent an agenda with four goals that will standardize security and network technologies so that they all work together more seamlessly by creating standards. This is a noble goal.

Even though it should be getting easier, though, connecting to the Internet or your Intranet wirelessly is still a serious pain in the tuckus, especially if you are on the road. True, embedded Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G data cards and soon WiMAX increase the number of options, but they often only serve to aggravate, annoy and add to expense accounts.

Any enterprise worth doing business with will have some modicum of security software installed on their employees' equipment. As necessary as it is, security software can hamper and even prevent connecting to certain networks if they are deemed unsafe, especially wireless networks. What does this mean for the enterprise worker traveling on business to less-than-civilized regions of the globe where technology is often patchworked together? Tough luck.

Another component is IT policy administration. Similar to security software, policy management makes sure users are connecting and behaving as the corporation wants them to. Can't find free Wi-Fi, but the hotel's $20 a day connection is starting you in the face? Some corporations won't have it. This can be roadblock number two.

Then there's the networks. While the 3G data networks are capable of handing off data calls, from one cell to the next Wi-Fi networks are not so adept at it. Then there's things like FMC, where a call is originated on a 3G network, but once the 802.11 radio and security software senses a trusted Wi-Fi network, it switches the from the 3G network to the Wi-Fi network. With voice calls, these hand-offs are absolutely possible, though not commonplace just yet. Data sessions can be handled the same way, but they, too are not commonplace.

While these technology issues may seem to be a problem, they really aren't. They'll be solved soon enough. The real issue remains the interoperability across countries and regions.

Enterprise data users are going to have to simply wait for things like the MEA standards to arrive (which could be 4-7 years) and continue to live in purgatory--where the Holy Grail of connecting seamlessly to ubiquitous networks with world over is within reach--until then.

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