Ronald Gruia, program leader for emerging communications at Frost & Sullivan Canada, said portable phones that use the IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi protocol use more battery juice than conventional cell phones because they constantly communicate with the nearest Wi-Fi access point.
As a result, Gruia said, mobile phone equipment manufacturers are finding it difficult to make a Wi-Fi phone with a battery life that will be long enough to satisfy road warriors who are used to cell phones with four-hour battery lives.
Gruia, who moderated a panel discussion titled Mobility Disruption: 3G and Wi-Fi, said dual-mode handsets that work on both cellular and Wi-Fi networks often cost $400 to $500 dollars.
Despite the high cost and short battery lives, many companies are in the market for dual-mode devices, said Philip Richards, director of product marketing for Toronto-based Newstep Networks Inc.
“Increasingly, we see people picking up their cell phones in the home, picking up the mobile phone in the office when they have a perfectly good fixed line that they could use,” Richards said during the panel discussion.
Only 14 per cent of cell phone calls are made while the users are actually mobile, while the remainder are made from fixed locations, said Ray Vilis, vice-president of product management at Gatineau, Que.-based Versatel Networks Inc.
Users who make calls from a Wi-Fi phone would not have to pay air time charges to a cellular provider, but this should not deter wireless carriers from reselling this type of device, Richards said. A carrier with a corporate account will not necessarily be providing service to all of that company’s mobile users because many workers use their own phones, but a carrier who offers a package of dual-mode phones to a company could expect to have a more employees using its service on the dual-mode phones than on handsets that work only on the cellular network.
Telus Corp. has purchased privately-held Assurent Secure Technologies for an undisclosed sum. The firm brings a staff of 55 to the Burnaby, B.C.-based carrier, as well as its sole security product, a Web-based application firewall.
It is the expertise Assurent’s consultants have in the market, as well as its existing customer base, that attracted the interest of Telus and will help it better compete with Bell, said David Fuller, senior vice-president of solutions and products for Telus Business Solutions.
Bell spun off its own security company, Bell Security Solutions Inc., last year. While Telus has no plans to build a build another security firm around Assurent, the acquisition “enhances our ability to compete viably with (Bell) in the Eastern marketplace,” said Fuller. “It’s not just Bell. Allstream has a strong security practice . . . and the (systems integrators) as well.”
It makes sense for telecommunications providers to offer more consulting around security, given their affinity for network management, said Gartner Group analyst Elroy Jopling, based in Toronto. “Why shouldn’t they be in the business? When it comes to network security, they’re the closest. Often they’ve had the expertise, they just haven’t gone at it as strongly as they could,” he said.
Assurent’s specialties are research and consulting around vulnerability assessment and threat protection. Customers include large banks and insurance companies.
All 55 employees will remain with the firm following the Telus acquisition and Assurent chairman Roger Mahabir said he will stay on to manage its Toronto office. For the short term at least, it will be “business as usual,” said Jason Doel, Assurent’s VP of sales and marketing.
There are no immediate changes planned for Assurent, said Fuller, but it will be rolled into Telus’s existing Business Solutions division.
There’s little chance the major carriers will dominate the security market, Jopling said.
“It’s like climbing a hill. They’re ain’t no top, you just have to keep climbing. I think there will be advances in security, but at least for the immediate future, it’s going to be a viable market,” he said.
Canada Post plans to roll out Windows Mobile 5.0-based handsets to sales staff, and the next step is to give them access to customer relationship management tools.
Aaron Nichols, general manager of information technology at Canada Post, said the organization currently recently finished piloting about 300 Audiovox devices and is planning to roll out about 700 UTStarcom PPC 6700s.
He added the postal service implemented Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 last year as part of its efforts to modernize its messaging infrastructure.
“We had four or five legacy messaging systems from an old mainframe system to Microsoft mail to some Lotus Notes, and we decided to consolidate on Exchange 2003 for all the reasons you do those kinds of projects — more support, cost savings, etc., and at the same time we had been dabbling a little in mobile messaging,” said Nichols. “We had done a pilot with different devices, some iPaqs and some BlackBerrys, and some people started to use text messaging on phones as well.”
While some Canada Post users had clear preferences as to the devices themselves, it quickly became obvious hardware was the least of the issues to be considered.
“It was interesting once we got into the topic,” said Sean Seaton, director of Windows Mobile and embedded devices for Microsoft Canada. “A lot of people changed their view once they got into the research because the real cost of these things is in the air time and support models, as opposed to the devices themselves.”
In the end, it went with Telus as a provider, who recommended Audiovox PDAs on Microsoft’s most recent mobile platform. That was important, he said, because it was so simple to set up.
“There’s no third-party software or servers you have to add in between your Exchange 2003 environment and your carrier when you’re using a Windows-based device.”