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Commentary: High-bandwidth roaming

There is a bright future for devices that combine 802.11b and telephony networks, according to Gartner.

By Martin Reynolds, Gartner Analyst

Notebook computers will soon be able to access both 802.11b wireless networks, with their high-bandwidth capabilities, and standard cell phone networks.

Without that capability, notebook users have had to juggle modems to access either network, but a new credit card-sized device from Nokia, the first of several likely to hit the market, will perform the switching seamlessly.

See news story:
Cell phone, laptop networks connect

Although a fill-in solution until 802.11b networks are more widely available and take over from the standard, much slower networks now in use, users will benefit immediately from easier access to both types of networks.

Most new notebooks support internal 802.11b wireless connections, but a combination card is a way to support users whose notebooks don't support internal 802.11b.

Gartner believes there is a bright future for devices that combine 802.11b and telephony networks. That standard offers users tremendous bandwidth, but only in a relatively few areas--although those areas are where users can really benefit from a high-bandwidth link, such as airports.

802.11b gives mobile phone network operators the chance to offer more services to their customers while transferring traffic load from the relatively expensive part of the licensed radio spectrum to its inexpensive, unlicensed part, which is where 802.11b operates.

Once 802.11b is widely established, operators will be able to charge a healthy premium for cellular-based wireless data because of its near-ubiquitous access, delivering price and performance to people who are willing and able to get close to an 802.11b access point.

The ability of the carriers to provide transparent billing and roaming for 802.11b will be critical in terms of owning the market. Failure to do so will leave the opportunity open for independent suppliers, with the follow up risk of voice services layered on top of 802.11b. Those services could threaten the carriers' core business.

Gartner believes enterprises should aggressively pursue the deployment of 802.11b for their traveling employees who use notebooks. Being able to send or receive large files in a reasonable time has always been a problem for people using notebooks on the road. They usually have to resort to using landlines to connect to their companies' databases.

Now, however, by using a combination card, high-bandwidth access makes the job of getting large amounts of information to and from a notebook much easier and faster.

(For a related commentary on wireless and mobile communications, see

Entire contents, Copyright © 2002 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.