Can Businesses Remove Carriers From Their Mobility Efforts? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
2/21/2007
01:44 PM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
Commentary
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Can Businesses Remove Carriers From Their Mobility Efforts?

Let's admit it. You've thought about it before. Is it possible to remove carriers from the mobile enterprise equation? The promise of all-IP networks and better smartphones is that the role of carriers can be eliminated, or at least greatly reduced. Will this promised day ever arrive?

Let's admit it. You've thought about it before. Is it possible to remove carriers from the mobile enterprise equation? The promise of all-IP networks and better smartphones is that the role of carriers can be eliminated, or at least greatly reduced. Will this promised day ever arrive?The answer is simple. No.

I agree with Daniel Taylor over at the Mobile Enterprise Blog, who argues that carriers will always be in the middle of your mobility plans, no matter how hard you try.

Taylor's argument centers around three points. First, the wide area. Carriers own the wide area networks and the spectrum and they're not going away anytime soon.

The second is IT core competencies. Just as I pointed out earlier this week that carriers are not good at building IT services, IT organizations are no better-suited to serve as wireless service providers.

I'd also like to dig a little deeper than Taylor on this one. The wireless carriers learned from the mistakes of their wireline cousins. They saw how services like VoIP disrupted landline platforms and business models. And guess what, the wireless guys aren't going to let the same thing happen to them. Not without a long, drawn out fight. So get used to the carriers.

Taylor's third point, which is in a sense a sub-point of his second, is that the economics of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs -- or wireless service resellers) just doesn't add up. What this really means is that there is little chance of making a business-focused MVNO work. In other words, the carriers are best positioned to offer wireless service and make money off it.

Taylor captures this confusion perfectly:

Enterprise mobility is moving along on a completely different path. IT departments are buying smartphones and deploying mobile e-mail. Carriers are designing fixed-mobile convergence services and building IMS networks.

While we stare at our belly-buttons and wait for the magical enterprise MVNO to come save the day, the market is moving forward without us.

Enterprises and businesses of all sizes are adopting wireless, there is no doubt there. Carriers are trying to come up with new services --hoping vainly that enterprises and others will buy them -- while enterprises and other business users hope an MVNO will ride in and save them.

Let me repeat: The carriers aren't going anywhere. But that doesn't mean that I think they will also determine how IT orginizations plan and execute their mobility strategies. Quite the contrary, in fact. IT orginizations will be the masters of their own fate. But they won't get there alone.

I think that this area -- the gap between carriers and enterprises -- will be filled (at least for larger companies) by a smart systems integrator or hardware vendor and not by either the carriers or the IT departments on their own. The SMB market, however, may be a totally different story.

What do you think?

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