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Interview: Users starting small on wireless applications

Interview: Users starting small on wireless applications

As vice-president of internet and wireless services at Nextel Communications, Greg Santoro's duties include managing the rollout of the corporate wireless data services the Reston, Va., company announced last August. Santoro spoke with Computerworld US about the status of that offering and other issues in the wireless market.

As vice-president of internet and wireless services at Nextel Communications, Greg Santoro's duties include managing the rollout of the corporate wireless data services the Reston, Va., company announced last year. Santoro spoke with Computerworld US about the status of that offering and other issues in the wireless market. Are the economy and tight IT budgets making it hard for you to convince companies to invest in wireless services?

We're delivering a consistent set of new subscribers every quarter -- 400,000 to 500,000 net adds. And in the enterprise space, close to 40 percent of the customers are signing up for a data service. It sounds funny to say it, but I think the economy is helping us. It's real easy to get these programs going without having to go through a long approval process. Most of the deployments we've been involved in have started with a clearly defined project.

Are most of the projects still small in scope?

Last year was lots of little projects. This year, it's a lot of deployments within functional groups. I expect by later this year to see location-aware services and more enterprisewide deployments.

What about the issue of wireless security shortcomings? Is that affecting sales?

I would say some of the black eye that wireless has on security has bled over into the more traditional mobile space. But it's very easy to encrypt information within a corporate environment and extend that to the phone -- that's basically extending a VPN to the phones. Wi-Fi, on the other hand, remains a concern. Our approach to the wireless LAN is to offer it as a tool on a (corporate) campus. We don't currently offer a hot-spot capability.

Are there other issues that corporate users say need to be addressed before they go ahead with wireless projects?

One thing that does come up from customers -- and we can prove that it's not an issue -- is reliability. It's inherently difficult to guarantee (service-level agreements) on wireless networks, and corporate customers want SLAs. But our back-end connections to the Internet are redundant, and we've put a lot of energy into ensuring that our data environment is hardened and well secured. We've optimized everything that we can.

How do you think your iDen mobile network stacks up against rival ones based on GSM and CDMA technology?

The biggest difference people like to talk about is speed. But frankly, to most IT people I've talked to, speed is a sexy thing but it turns out to be the fourth or fifth item on their priority lists. Coverage and the ability to deploy applications and support them are higher. When you look at all the dimensions, iDen stacks up pretty well, except that it happens to be somewhat slower.

Do you have anything in the works to boost the speed?

We have an option of going to an advanced version of iDen, which would quadruple our data rate. We're currently in the process of looking at that.

Why not jump right on it?

Nothing's free. It's not that hard or that expensive, but there's work to be done. If customers were breaking down the door saying they needed higher speeds, we'd be jumping on it tomorrow. But they're not.-- Computerworld (US)

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