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The Wireless Internet Industry: Serving the Information Superhighway

The Wireless Internet Industry: Serving the Information Superhighway

The newest type of road rage is one that doesn't involve cars. It's the aggravating World Wide Wait now moving onto the wireless devices of road warriors traveling the information superhighway. Within three years, about 1.3-billion people worldwide are expected to access the Internet via wireless technology. Wireless carriers must deliver faster download times to ensure a healthy future.

To date, developments in wireless technology and related infrastructure have been inconsistent and problematic, leaving gaps in the road that allow for people to go flat on the idea of a satisfying wireless Internet ride. Mobile Web surfers are plagued by painfully slow Web browsing speeds that are anywhere from 9.6-19.2Kbps.

Wireless carriers face the challenge of delivering a desktop-quality Web-browsing experience along with faster delivery of rich content (that's getting richer by the day) to the ever-expanding audiences of mobile Internet users. These solutions must be affordable and able to deliver content to the end user over existing and next-generation networks.

Aside from upgrading to 2.5G and 3G packet-switched networks, which only partially solve the bandwidth problem, there are further solutions for speeding up mobile browsing. Most of them, however, require the end user to install additional hardware or software. In addition, the solutions that require client software are costly and time consuming for service providers to deploy and implement.

Currently, wireless carriers are making heavy investments in next-generation 2.5 and 3G technologies to increase bandwidth. However, early adopters have learned that theoretical bandwidths of 115Kbps are not attainable. In fact, the reality is closer to 20-30Kbps. With such large capital outlays, wireless carriers are facing the probability that their next-generation networks won't be able to deliver promised download speeds. Bandwidth, therefore, is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a pressing problem for full mobile Internet access.

Aside from WAP - which fills a market space for immediate access to pure data (stock quotes, location-based services, etc.) - what solutions will enable wireless carriers to capture an early share of the wireless Internet market? To be successful, solutions must offer access to the whole World Wide Web over existing infrastructures, and must also help carriers extend their market share by creating a smooth transition to next-generation services.

Trends - Surf the Net Freely
Internet optimization solutions designed to access the Web via wireless networks are gaining favor as the newest and best way to provide a more acceptable Web-browsing experience for both business and consumer users. By delivering extremely fast download times, wireless carriers can differentiate their services through virtual bandwidth, which provides accelerated full Internet browsing without major infrastructure upgrades on either the service provider side or end-user side. They also help to ensure the future direction of the wireless industry as a key method of Internet access.

Traffic congestion on the Web stems in large part from the number of users, and the amount of data being transmitted simultaneously directly affects bandwidth. The more users online at one time, the lower the bandwidth available to each. Internet acceleration technologies create virtual bandwidth by reducing the volume of data transported over the wireless network to the end users. While wireless Internet users are able to use the Web efficiently, without waiting for information to squeeze through the limited bandwidth, network optimization benefits wireless carriers as well by allowing more subscribers to use their networks, resulting in more efficient network utilization.

Images, text, and graphics can also be optimized to create much lighter HTML pages while still retaining all the content. The data volume per user can thus be reduced, improving network utilization and enabling more users to be served within the same bandwidth.

These acceleration solutions work by compressing and/or optimizing HTML content, making browsing faster and reducing the number of data packets on the carrier's network. This increases bandwidth without compromising content.

However, most of these types of solutions require not only server software, but also client software to be installed on end-user devices. In order to keep up with the competitive marketplace and offer their customers the best possible solution (and to cut down on churn), wireless carriers should look for the following features in their Web acceleration solutions:

  • Client-free operation: It's important to keep it simple for the end user. Deployment that involves only the server-side and is transparent to the end user will reap significant benefits for existing and potential business. This allows the consumer optimized access without installing additional software or hardware.
  • Support for a wide variety of HTML-based terminals and Web browsers: Carriers want a solution that all their subscribers can use, which can be seamlessly integrated into next-generation (2.5G and 3G) networks and various operating systems (Windows, Pocket PC, EPOC, Palm OS, etc.). A client-free solution supports any device running on various operating systems since all that's required is a standard HTML browser such as Explorer, Netscape, or Opera.
  • Carrier-class features: Carriers need a flexible solution that's truly scalable and compatible with standard external equipment such as load balancers, Layer 4 switches, or others. SNMP management for remote monitoring and standard billing interface are also important considerations. This allows carriers to control and manage value-added services based on individual customer needs.
  • Easy deployment: Wireless carriers must seek a Web acceleration solution that can be quickly and easily deployed on a standard LAN server, without requiring client-side software. This will shorten the time-to-market for carriers and provide mobile customers with the value-added benefit of faster browsing speeds.
The mobile handset, wireless PDA, and laptop are becoming essential all-purpose business appliances serving telecommuters and road warriors on the information superhighway. By delivering extremely fast download times, wireless carriers can not only differentiate their services and reduce customer churn, but also help to ensure the future vitality and future growth of the wireless Internet industry.

More Stories By Moshe Sheps

Moshe Sheps is the CEO of Speedwise, Inc.,
a provider of rapid-deployment solutions that
accelerate Internet access over existing wireless
and landline infrastructures.

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