Study touts WLAN as key to 3G mobile
- By John K. Waters
The proliferation of Wireless LANs (WLANs) will add $2.8 billion to the
so-called third generation (3G) mobile data market by 2005, complementing rather
than threatening the future of that market, concluded UMTS Forum in a report
dubbed ''Impact & Opportunity: Public Wireless LANs and 3G Business
The UMTS report, released last week, concluded that the two technologies are
evolving as ''complementary technologies that will together strengthen a total
mobile data services portfolio.'' The report shows that, although the direct
impact on forecast 3G mobile intranet revenues is likely to be less than one
percent of total 3G revenues in 2005, new implementations of WLANs will
stimulate the overall mobile data services market, including demand for 3G
UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) is one of the major new 3G
mobile communications systems being developed within the framework defined by
the International Telecommunications Union. The UMTS Forum is an open,
international body that promotes the ''global uptake'' of 3G mobile systems and
Interest in WLAN technology spiked this year, as several firms, including
Hewlett Packard, disclosed plans to make big investments in the concept of WLAN
''hot spots.'' HP's initiative aims to provide high-speed wireless access points
in large, public areas, such as airports, hotels and restaurants. The company
plans to sell customized bundles that include wireless access points and
back-end services for subscriptions and billing, company representatives said.
Such moves prompted the UMTS Forum study of public WLAN and its potential
impact on predicted business 3G service revenue for mobile intranet. The
resulting report concluded that 3G, when compared to WLAN, offered more than
mobile access to the Internet, because of its ''richer portfolio of
capabilities.'' In addition, 3G is available to users traveling at high speeds,
whereas WLAN requires users to be essentially stationary, thus making it
semi-mobile access, the report concluded.
Bernd Eylert, chairman of the UMTS Forum, predicted that Public WLAN will be
used by almost 20% of 3G business users in 2005 and add $2.8 billion in 2005 to
the market for 3G mobile data, but will not replace 3G services. It could,
however, become an additional source of ''competitive differentiation.''
''The WLAN service providers are fulfilling a niche,'' Eylert wrote in the
report, ''and initial WLAN business users are foreseen to be early adopters of
wireless Internet services. WLAN provides an opportunity to both expand market
size and competitive position and could become an essential component to every
global or national mobile operator's service portfolio.''
He also warned that the WLAN ''actually poses a potential risk to 3G
operators that choose not to participate in this market.''
The UMTS Forum has previously forecast that total worldwide 3G services
revenue will reach $320 billion by 2010.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached