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Optical/IP

Broadband USA

As U.S. carriers try to shore up falling revenues from consumer voice services by adding more "high value" business customers, enterprise users are looking for more broadband capabilities and better roaming deals from the cellular giants.

"Top of my list is broadband, high-speed connectivity and international roaming charges," says Jolean DeKort, telecommunications manager at multinational ink manufacturer Flint Ink, which is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, .

The appeal of business customers is obvious for big carriers like Cingular Wireless , T-Mobile US Inc. , Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), and Verizon Wireless . Enterprise users tend to pay more for voice and data services, and the operator can potentially sell a bundle of services on top of a basic subscription.

Research firm IDC predicts that business revenue in the U.S. wireless market will grow from $29 billion in 2005 to $52 billion in 2010. The number crunchers say that, at the moment, the relatively high average revenue per user (ARPU) for voice services, and the early take-up of data services are driving sales. Enterprise sales will be crucial in offsetting declining subscriber rates through the rest of the decade, according to IDC. (See Wireless Eyes Businesses.)

Improved cellular broadband data services ranks as one of DeKort's top priorities as her firm considers updating its wireless services.

DeKort says that she has looked at the big four U.S. major carriers for the update, but hasn't yet decided which to go with. She's been considering EV-DO 3G services from Sprint and Verizon, and keeping an eye on Cingular as it implements new 3G upgrades such as High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and UMTS to its GSM-based network.

"They have a new technology coming out that looks comparable to EV-DO," DeKort notes.

The carriers are acutely aware that users are now much more switched on about data services than they have been in the past. Sprint said today that its latest network upgrade -- EV-DO Rev. A -- will roll out at the beginning of next year. The carrier says that it will use the technology to add more VOIP and push-to-talk type services to its offerings.

Meanwhile, Cingular says that it will expand its 3G services to the top 100 markets in the country by the end of the year.

Some of the other services that carriers are hoping will entice business users have not quite captured their interest in the same way.

DeKort notes that Sprint Nextel has a raft of managed applications and services that it has cooked up for business users, such as mobile email, workforce location and asset tracking.

"We're not interested in any of that at this time," declares DeKort.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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