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Carriers Digging Data

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ATLANTA -- CTIA Show -- Its not just the little wireless LAN startups that want to make big bucks from enterprise customers. The major wireless carriers are also looking to cash in with their shiny new, high-speed networks.

That was the message from the carrier CEO roundtable on the last day of this simply peachy wireless show down Atlanta way. Bigwigs from Alltel Corp. (NYSE: AT), Cingular Wireless, Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL), Sprint Wireless (NYSE: PCS), T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless all talked up the role of data in their future plans.

Denny Strigl, CEO of Verizon Wireless, and Nextel's Timothy Donahue were the most upbeat in their predictions about enterprise interest in the applications for faster wide-area networks.

Of course, Strigl's Verizon is now implementing a high-speed EV-DO upgrade to its CDMA network that will offer average download times of 300 to 500 kbit/s (see Verizon Has $692M for EV-DO).

"EV-DO is the perfect next evolution of what we do," Strigl told the audience. "On the enterprise side… I am finally convinced that we have a product that we can sell to them." He claimed that in the initial markets -- Washington D.C. and San Diego -- the carrier has already seen good business uptake of the service, "the legal profession especially." Nextel is currently testing kit from Flarion Technologies in Raleigh, N.C., as a possible "4G" upgrade to its existing iDEN networks (see Nextel Flashes With Flarion). Donahue was effusive in his praise:

"We been seeing remarkable speeds on the downloads... great handoffs... I believe that the time is now. Enterprise customers are looking for download speeds that allow them to more do than email."

Despite this, Donahue offered no indication of if and when Nextel might adopt the technology, which it has been testing in some form since at least June 2002 (see Nextel Trials Flarion's Flash).

Leave it to Sprint CEO Len Laurer to inject a note of caution into the enterprise data lovefest. He noted just how much carriers will have to do to allow corporations to run more complicated applications over their networks. This will include work on integration and security to make wide-area application access attractive to businesses.

"[In order] to convince CIOs to port a lot of office applications to mobile… we are going to have to work with them and put a lot of this on the service layer," he told the audience.

Hey, sounds like fun.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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