Carriers At Risk Of Losing Enterprise Customers? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
7/25/2007
03:44 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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Carriers At Risk Of Losing Enterprise Customers?

Upstart Wi-Fi vendors could potentially pilfer certain enterprise business segments from wireless network operators, according to a new report from Analysys. Well, maybe.

Upstart Wi-Fi vendors could potentially pilfer certain enterprise business segments from wireless network operators, according to a new report from Analysys. Well, maybe.Providing better indoor coverage is critical if wireless network operators want to hold onto their business customers. As nearly ubiquitous as cellular coverage is, signals don't always penetrate deep into buildings well. Research firm Analysys believes that new offerings from WLAN vendors can exploit holes in the mobile enterprise market, especially where indoor coverage is concerned.

"The limited coverage and throughput and the relatively high prices of indoor cellular services make it difficult for mobile operators to satisfy enterprises' requirements for mobility," according to report co-author, Dr. Mark Heath.

So what can they do to cover the gap? Indoor base stations in the form of pico or femtocells is one angle to take. Sprint, for example, has a forthcoming femtocell product called the UbiCell. It will plug into a broadband Internet connection and route cellular calls through the Internet to Sprint's back-end systems. It will provide enhanced in-home coverage for consumers. This will be great for consumers, but what about a similar enterprise product? A quick look at Sprint's enterprise networking page shows that it offers a range of solutions for enhanced in-building and campus-wide coverage. Pricing isn't discussed, as each solution is custom tailored to individual enterprises' needs. The problem is WLAN-based solutions are likely to be cheaper.

Another solution for carriers is to capitalize on the abilities of IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) services. Analysys says IMS will give mobile operators the functionality they need to integrate and control their indoor base stations and to deliver the flexibility, sophistication and interworking between services that enterprises will expect.

I think the report's other author, Dr. Alastair Brydon, tosses a couple of good ideas onto the table. "One approach would be to use the technologies to integrate enterprises' existing systems and applications with their cellular networks, although this would need substantial support from systems integrators. An alternative, albeit more radical, tactic would be to aim for pervasive cellular mobility, whereby the same cellular network solution is used to deliver all of an enterprise's services and applications in every environment."

These approaches have their pluses and minuses, to be sure. Finding the right set of enhanced services that doesn't require too much administrative support for a reasonable amount of money is the balancing high-wire act that carriers and enterprise customers have to walk together.

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