Third-generation (3G) mobile data services will be a cheaper and more secure option than public-access wireless LAN (WLAN) Wi-Fi hotspots for roaming corporate employees, according to Orange.
The mobile operator plans to introduce its 3G data service in the second half of this year, but faces intense competition from rival operators T-Mobile and BT Openzone, both of which offer Wi-Fi hotspots.
"3G will provide the security that public WLANs cannot, and it will probably be cheaper as well," claimed Nigel Shardlow, head of innovation and incubation at Orange UK.
So far only Vodafone offers 3G data services in the UK, priced from between £10 and £85 per month, depending on data consumption. T-Mobile recently announced it will charge subscribers £5 for an hour's access to its hotspots in Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
Shardlow said that because 3G supports higher data rates than GPRS, it will encourage firms to make greater use of sales and automation applications, GPS tracking systems, and peer-to-peer videoconferencing.
Nick Evans, Microsoft and mobility manager at reseller IT Partnerships, said he was inclined to agree with Shardlow. "The cost model is there, and GPRS - and hopefully 3G - is ubiquitous," he said.
"The type of people using public Wi-Fi at the moment are professionals. I think there might be some changes when companies start cracking down on the sort of Wi-Fi bills that are going on corporate plastic at the moment."
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