"On Demand" Mobility: Are We There Yet?

By Philippe Winthrop — February 02, 2009

It's about 7 a.m. While drinking my third cup of coffee and listening to National Public Radio, I hear Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson describe our current economic challenges as "a once in a 100-year event."  Even as the world faces what is arguably its greatest economic and financial challenges since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the enterprise mobility ecosystem continues to grow at a steady pace.

In fact, new research at Strategy Analytics shows strong growth in WiFi-enabled smartphones that allow end users to leverage the higher bandwidth speeds that WiFi provides over even the speediest 3G networks.  Application adoption continues to grow -- specifically for Unified Communications, Business Intelligence, CRM/SFA and Field Service.  Even today's "killer app" -- messaging and calendaring -- shows growth, with 16% of end-user organizations planning on adopting the solution within the next 12 months.

But, are I.T. departments expecting (and demanding) the same levels of performance and service level agreements from their mobile computing solutions as they are from the rest of their I.T. infrastructure?  Are enterprise mobility solutions able to perform like other I.T. systems, providing high availability, business continuity and "On Demand" levels of service? 

Unfortunately, not yet.

The preliminary data from Strategy Analytics' study of 400 end-user organizations in the United States show some startling results.  More than one third of respondents said they lost coverage more than 10% of the time.  Over 30% of respondents stated they lost data connectivity "when they needed it" more than 10% of the time. 

What does this mean to business processes?  Forty percent of respondents stated these outages or dead-zones slowed their ability to complete tasks on time more than 10% of the time.  This is clearly not a recipe for enhanced productivity.
In fact, if "traditional" wireless services are not going to provide the appropriate SLAs, then I would encourage end-user organizations to consider augmenting their mobile solutions with mobile satellite-based services. These technologies have become increasingly portable and prices continue to come down, making satellite a viable business continuity option for any mobile enterprise. 

The entire ecosystem of players in the world of enterprise mobility must raise the proverbial bar in 2009. 
  • Carriers need to deploy stronger and more pervasive networks to eliminate dead spots. If this can't be done, then carriers should consider developing value-added partnerships with mobile satellite providers to enable their customers to realize pervasive, global access to mission-critical mobile applications.

  • Infrastructure manufacturers need to develop and deploy affordable solutions such as picocells and femtocells to enhance coverage.

  • Handset manufacturers need to provide devices with stronger antennas.

  • Application/solution vendors need to develop ways to temporarily cache data on devices such that when there is no coverage, the devices can still retrieve data and store data to be uploaded once connectivity is re-established. 
Only when these four things occur -- in concert -- can we hope to have truly On Demand enterprise mobility.

Philippe Winthrop is a Research Director in Strategy Analytics' Global Wireless Practice, covering enterprise mobility. Check out his blog, Enterprise Mobility Matters.


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