Growing numbers of Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, GPRS and third-generation (3G) mobile handsets will make 2004 a breakthrough year for wireless data use.
Analyst Ovum has predicted the rising number of GPRS and 3G handsets will encourage developers by giving them a decent-sized market to aim for.
"After huge technical teething troubles, it looks as though mainstream 3G services and handsets will finally reach us in late 2004," said Julian Hewett, chief analyst at Ovum, in a research note.
He added that while public wireless Lans are immature and the business model is unclear, the number of Wi-Fi-enabled laptops and hotspots is growing rapidly.
"Development of the wireless enterprise has been slow. But we expect to see more commitment from chief information officers in 2004," Hewett said. "The key question with wireless data is that we still have no idea what people will pay for."
But, he said, it is vital that people do pay for wireless data; otherwise the long-term future of the mobile industry looks grim.
"My belief is that in the long term, mobile data will simply make up for declining mobile voice revenues," Hewett added.
For devices that are smarter than phones, such as PDAs and laptops, the future seems brighter.
Last week, analyst Datamonitor said the convergence of voice and data networks will see more wireless networks deployed by enterprises, with manufacturing, financial services, education and healthcare picked out as key verticals for the technology.
Jess Thompson-Hughes, managing director of React Technologies, which resells Aruba wireless networking kit, said the firm was seeing a high level of interest in wireless networks, although few full roll-outs so far.
Interest is particularly high in financial services, he added. "A lot of demos are being conducted by financial services firms. In the US it's deployments but over here it's mostly trials," he said.
Thompson-Hughes said corporates' security fears were gradually receding as they find how to identify and eliminate rogue access points to wired networks.
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