THOUGHT LEADER : Enabling a Wireless World

As the regulations under the Telecommunications Amendment Act 2006 take effect, technology innovations are introduced and the major political parties place broadband near the forefront of their election manifestos, 2008 is proving to be very exciting year for the New Zealand telecommunications sector.
During my time as country manager for Qualcomm in Australia and New Zealand, I have seen major changes in the telecom­munications industry and this rate of change is only going to increase. Only few years ago I was using dial-up internet connections from my hotel room while travelling. Today, along with most other companies, our organisation has dispensed with our global dial-up ISP agreement and uses either cabled or wireless broadband.
In Australia, we have already seen improvements in both download and uplink speeds from the four mobile operators on their 3G networks. In New Zealand, operators are also starting to offer similar services and are expanding the footprint of their current 3G networks all the time.
When the first 3G devices and networks appeared, they were clunky and uninspiring, leaving customers disappointed. In 2001, the best speed on 3G downlink was 384 kilobits per second and home PCs offered 56 kilobits per second on dial-up. Today, 3G technology has peak download speed of 7.2 megabits per second and an upload speed of 1.9 megabits per second, and these are expected to treble in the next 12 months. But the industry isn’t stopping there; these speeds will continue to increase exponentially, with many vendors claiming that by 2010, mobile networks will be able to support download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of 50 megabits per second.
Cellular hardware suppliers are supporting the move towards more technologically mobile society, with the number of devices being designed to connect to the internet with application-rich services growing fast. Suppliers are also working hard to ensure that many of the new devices coming into the market are becoming easier to use and cheaper, as is connectivity, and this is aiding the uptake of these devices amongst consumers and businesses alike.
We are also witnessing considerable innovation in technology across other hardware suppliers. During 2008, we will see laptop computers enter the market with built-in wireless modems that cover all major wireless technologies. We will also see an increasing number of small, pocketable computing devices and greater variety of smart phones.
This combination of improving devices and infrastructure will lay the platform for new competitive and innovative cellular wireless applications, which will change the way we work and communicate.
Within our own organisation, advances in wireless and mobile technology are changing the way my staff work by reducing their dependence on being in the office. One of my team now spends less than 30 percent of his time at his desk. He accesses all our corporate IT systems wirelessly, so is able to work where he wants and enjoy more flexibility around his working hours. Although he is not spending as much time physically at his desk, his productivity has improved and he is still as accessible as ever to my team thanks to his ability to stay connected to our system no matter where he is located.
The ability to hold videoconferences via 3G devices has also impacted our ability to work whilst on the road. Not so long ago, hosting videoconference from the side of the road would not have been possible. However, not only can I now do this, I am seeing improvements in the quality of this service almost daily as connectivity increases.
With regulatory change starting to have practical implications on the New Zealand marketplace, as well as advances in wireless technology, 2008 is likely to be an exciting year for businesses from technology perspective.
Looking ahead, one of the biggest challenges for organisations is likely to be working out how to make the best use of the tools we are now being offered. Too often, organisations are taking the view that wireless devices are no more than toys, but for those who embrace them, they are likely to see excellent returns on their investment.

Robert Hart is the Australia and New Zealand country manager for Qualcomm – Fortune 500 company providing wireless solutions in over 70 countries.

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