As carriers begin to roll out 4G networks, high-speed mobile access promises everything from mobile video calling to faster syncing of data -- and several users are waiting impatiently for the upgrade.
Doug Stone, vice president of finance at Florida's Hospice of the Comforter, says he won't upgrade the hospice's 250 BlackBerry smartphones until a 4G device arrives to decrease the 15 to 20 minutes the nurses spend each day synchronizing their devices. "If the [speed] is as advertised, it should give us 15 minutes of extra labor for each nurse each day," he says.
BlackBerry users like Stone may not have to wait long to experience those benefits.
Frost & Sullivan
analyst Samir Sakpal
says that if the rumors are true, he expects Research In Motion's rumored 4G BlackBerry smartphone, unofficially called the BlackBerry Triton, to arrive on the market in December of 2010.
While not much is known about the anticipated device, Sakpal says it's reasonable to expect the Triton to be designed to compete with Apple's iPhone 4. "The word is that they will have features such as a 5.0 megapixel camera with both front and back imaging, similar to the iPhone 4... for videoconferencing," he says.
"When you have 4G and you know for sure that there will be a lot of data consumed by users... you can expect to drive down your costs with the efficiency of the BlackBerry platform, which can provide optimum usage of data," Sakpal says. "That's a crucial advantage for BlackBerry over its competitors, and enterprises will definitely want to take advantage of that."
ABI Research practice director Dan Shey says that will be particularly useful for mobile video in the enterprise. "I am sure that RIM will try to ensure that video viewing from the BlackBerry smartphone has the lowest impact on operator networks relative to other smartphone platforms," he says.
Chris Hazelton, research director at The 451 Group, says RIM is also in an ideal position to ensure the security of those deployments. "You could have highly secure video chat for government, for executives who are talking about information that is under regulation by Sarbanes-Oxley, or even for financial analysts who are talking with a customer... that would be the sweet spot for a 4G service by RIM," he says.
Still, Hazelton says it's not just about the network -- BlackBerry device processors, he says, will also need to be upgraded significantly to support 4G speeds. "Today, when you're using your smartphone on Wi-Fi... you can pull up a mobile enabled web page on your smartphone and a full web page on your PC, and you'll still see that the PC will render the web page faster even if they're on the same network," he says. "So the processor is critical... and I think the processor will be something that they focus on more."
Regardless, Yankee Group research director Sheryl Kingstone says app developers will have to become more aware of their applications' data usage moving forward as 4G networks make it easier to access key information. "With the elimination of the all you can eat data plans, you've now got to create an app that's extremely network-optimized... You can create an always-on, tightly integrated, proactive, event-driven, highly contextualized app, and still be network friendly: just don't bring down the world," she says.
And as long as those issues are kept in mind, Kingstone says, the 4G BlackBerry is likely to encourage and support a whole new world of enterprise applications. "Cloud-based apps are huge," she says. "And that's where a Salesforce.com can really blow it out, if they do it -- because they will have the ability to make their platform more readily available in real time across a broadband pipe."