The five biggest worries about mobile data

Concerns about EV-DO, 3G that keep network executives up at night

Companies also want to make sure mobile devices follow security policies related to logging on, antivirus protection, firewalls and software patches before they are given remote access to corporate networks. Either alone or through partners, wireless carriers are offering software or hardware for mobile devices that do security policy checking.

Many companies are using EV-DO or other 3G services, as well as Wi-Fi -- depending on which wireless service is faster or cheaper at a particular location. Companies are buying remote access software for laptops that works with any of these wireless services and provides an easy-to-use interface and security policy checking.

"Our customers are telling us that 3G and Wi-Fi are really complementary technologies," says Piero DePaoli, director of global product marketing at iPass. "3G is what they use in the big cities, but if they have Wi-Fi at the hotel, they may get better performance in-building with Wi-Fi. Almost everybody's corporate campus or office is putting in Wi-Fi service."

Hardware solutions also are available. Gemalto, for example, provides smart cards that let wireless operators, corporations and government agencies provide secure logon to network data from cell phones and other mobile devices using tokens.

"What we're looking at for enterprises to have larger adoption of EV-DO and 3G is how they can build a security environment that's common for everybody," says Jean-Louis Carrara, vice president of marketing solutions and strategies for Gemalto. "Whatever the brand of your phone, whatever the mode of your phone, you would have a Subscriber Identity Module card in it and you would put the security on the SIM card. As you change devices every 18 months, you keep the SIM card with you so you still have security. Phones are getting better and better. Employees want to change phones so they can take advantage of new services, higher speeds and all the new multimedia rendering capabilities."

Worry number 3: International roaming fees

Imagine racking up a US$2,500 bill for network access on a business trip to Europe. That's what happened recently to a U.S. executive who spent a few weeks visiting customers in Europe. Horror stories like these are driving corporations to adopt global wireless data cards from carriers.

"In Europe, the roaming fees are amazing," Sprint's Donahue says. "You can spend US$60 a month, and you can use your laptop in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. In Europe, you can't travel 100 miles without incurring a US$100 fee. . . . It doesn't matter who you go with: Vodafone, Orange, Sprint, AT&T or Verizon. You can't get away from the roaming fees in those countries."

That's one reason companies are buying remote-access solutions that support multiple technologies including mobile data and Wi-Fi. Laptop users can choose the most affordable network access for each country.

"As users travel around the globe, the roaming fees for 3G data are more astronomical than the voice fees," iPass's DePaoli says. "You don't dream of using your cell phone when you travel to Europe. That's when other connectivity options like Wi-Fi really make sense."

Corporations can buy an unlimited mobile data card from a carrier for a particular country, or a more expensive global data card for executives who travel to many countries overseas. The U.S. card might cost US$60 a month, while the global card might cost US$160 a month. Although it is more expensive, the global card is less expensive than racking up roaming fees.

"There are two different approaches to this problem," says Greg DeMarco, director of business development for mobility solutions in the Americas for Orange Business Services. "You can source cards locally for the bulk of the employees who are mobile within a country. The other approach is for the high-end travelers. You get them one global card and that gives you a predictable but higher cost."

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Carolyn Duffy Marsan

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