The five biggest worries about mobile data

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

Worry number 5: Cost

As prices of EV-DO and other 3G technologies have dropped, cost has become less of a concern for CIOs. Many of them still limit the number of employees that qualify for laptops and mobile data cards, however.

When EV-DO was introduced two or three years ago, it cost around US$80 a month. Now it costs around US$60 a month. "Cost is usually one of the first hurdles, but the pricing has come down," Fiberlink's Szafranski says. "The cost hurdle has largely been passed."

Mobile data is still "expensive compared to Wi-Fi," Orange Business Services' DeMarco admits. "You can get unlimited public Wi-Fi and Internet dial-up service for US$20 a month per user. If you have unlimited Code Division Multiple Access or EV-DO service in the U.S., it's US$50 to US$60 a month."

Even more expensive are global data cards. "If you have a high traveling employee that might pay US$5 a megabyte for roaming out of their market, you can get them a global plan for US$160 a month flat-rate and up to 100 megabytes of data outside their domestic market," DeMarco says.

InStat estimates that EV-DO costs will drop to US$40 a month over the next few years. If that's true, it will be easier for CIOs to prove the ROI of mobile data.

One important factor for CIOs is getting a true estimate of how much money they are spending on wireless data. "We're trying to work with our customers on what's the return for mobile data and how to build a business case for it," says Laura Johnson, executive director of enterprise solutions for AT&T's wireless unit. "What happens if they don't have a centralized data communications strategy? Then when users travel they are paying for Wi-Fi hot spots and hotel connectivity, and it all shows up on travel expenses. A lot of times companies don't have a really good insight to what those costs are, and that's a liability when they want to move to a more centralized strategy."

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