The introduction of 4G wireless data speeds, coupled with the continuing growth of mobile devices and mobile technology could cause a productivity and efficiency revolution in the field service industry. But first, costs and traditional billing structures for enterprise clients need to be brought in line with today’s data demands. Republished with permission from Field Technologies Online.

With more powerful mobile computing devices entering the market and enterprises adding a wider variety of platforms (smartphones, tablets, rugged PDAs), companies need more wireless network capacity than ever before to support increasingly feature-rich mobile applications. Wireless carriers have responded by expanding coverage and boosting network speeds, but their enterprise customers have continued to up the wireless ante.

“Smartphones and tablets introduced over the past year generally have faster processors, higher screen resolution, and more multifunctionality features,” says Christopher Hill, vice president of advanced mobility solutions at AT&T. “Business customers are benefiting from advanced mobility solutions, such as location-based services, mobile resource management, or workforce productivity applications on these devices.”

As carriers roll out 4G network technology, users will seek to extend even more desktop functionality into the field. “In the future, the best applications for the enterprise will be those that bring greater levels of collaboration to mobile devices,” says Marc Rohleder, director of B2B sales engineering at T-Mobile USA.

For users the primary question is: What can I do with more speed? “What we’re hearing from customers is that they are looking at these technology changes as doing more faster, rather than performing some radical new transformative change now that they have this speed available,” says Steve Fallin, senior product manager at NetMotion Wireless. “For the most part, we must wait for [4G technology] to come into the market and do pilots. We’re in a ‘toe in the water’ period for high-speed networks.”

“A benefit of 4G will be the ability to support streaming video (and other rich media). For companies involved in sales and service, these functions will allow enterprise customers to ‘clone their experts’ and troubleshoot problems regardless of the location of the problem or the expert, reduce cost, and improve productivity across the enterprise, says Linda Eastridge-Jordan, industry marketing manager at Sprint. “4g enables the transport of large data files quickly, ensuring information is where it is needed, when it is needed.”

For applications like field service, the focus will be on more efficiency through video collaboration, video surveillance, or even viewing large files like CAD/CAM or medical imaging on a mobile device. But 4G may have a bigger impact in other parts of the enterprise.

Increased network speeds will allow users to have a desktop experience in the field, but speed is not an end unto itself. “Speed alone will not enable applications,” Hill says. “Rather, the applications combined with devices, the wireless network, and integration will deliver new enhancements, enabling business customers the ability to capitalize on … 4G speeds.”

To read the rest of this article, including how billing mat change for enterprise customers, go to Field Technologies Online (registration required).

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