Cellular Modems Move into the Mainstream - InformationWeek

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5/28/2008
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Cellular Modems Move into the Mainstream

What do you think was the hottest networking technology in 2007? Power over Ethernet switches? No. Unified Threat Management security systems? Guess again. VoIP phones? Nope. Try cellular modems, whose sales rose by an astounding 300% from year to year.

What do you think was the hottest networking technology in 2007? Power over Ethernet switches? No. Unified Threat Management security systems? Guess again. VoIP phones? Nope. Try cellular modems, whose sales rose by an astounding 300% from year to year.Cellular networks were built to carry voice communications and historically have not done a very good job of supporting data transmissions. With the recent influx advent of 3G networks, many of these networks are now able to deliver speeds of a few hundred K bps to users. In fact, a growing number of carriers are beginning to support the High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) standard, which pushes cellular data transmissions rates into the M bps range.

Consequently, these networks are emerging as a viable alternative to other wireless networking options, such as Wi-Fi. To attract new customers, suppliers, such as C-motech, Huawei, Novatel Option Wireless, Sierra Wireless, and ZTE, have packaged their cellular modems in a variety of ways. The devices are sold as PC Cards, Express Cards, USB modems, embedded modems and 3G/Wi-Fi routers. Laptop users often move from location to location and are in need of a way to quickly and easily access network services. The growing number of integrated cellular modems is helping them fulfill that requirement and is one of the main reasons for the market take off. Carriers are also pitching in to promote the technology. They have expanded their portfolio of mobile broadband price plans and begun opening up the market to small and medium businesses. Consequently, ABI Research expects sales of cellular modems to grow to 200 million units in 2013.

Even though cellular data services are growing at a rapid rate, they still face a few challenges. They have increased their bandwidth but lag options, such as Wi-Fi by an order of magnitude. Many small and medium businesses are not aware of these services, so carriers have to develop new sales, distribution and support channels. The cellular carriers are more so focused on the consumer market that the needs of small and medium businesses may be ignored. Vendors pricing plans can often include a number of unforeseen charges that make these services less enticing to businesses. As cellular data transmissions evolve, perhaps they will address these shortcomings and become more attractive to small and medium businesses.

How much interest does your company have in cellular data services? How much would you be willing to pay for them? What do you see as the advantages with them? What would keep you from deploying them?

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