Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Snapshot of Wireless Services for Business in Canada

Yesterday, I attended a Telus event here in Toronto targeted at a mix of consultants and customers. The focus was on trends in wireless adoption throughout the Canadian business sector, and of course, some Telus solutions that help fulfill the promise of broadband mobility.

The presentation was led by Jim Senko, and he highighted some findings from a large scale research study, conducted by a firm who shall remain nameless. I'm not in the habit of drawing attention to the work of competitors, but the research provided nice validation for some important themes that I'm hearing from both vendors and carriers these days, namely...

- Most businesses do not have a wireless strategy in place

- Businesses are ready to move beyond email in terms of enhancing their communications and leveraging the power of the Internet

- Businesses want to improve the customer experience, and see wireless as a way to do this

- Businesses want to be able to communicate across all network types

Well, you won't get an argument from me on these, and I suspect the U.S. market isn't all that much different. They didn't get into detail about how these themes vary by size of business or region or industry vertical, but I'm sure the data is there for future analysis.

The first finding is the most interesting for me, and where the opportunity is greatest for a telco to add value. What brought this to life for me were repeated references to the way businesses have typically bought wireless services. Jim Senko talked about the mentality they often face where business customers view wireless as being no more than the procurement of data plans and end user devices. It's no wonder these companies don't have a wireless strategy.

Of course, this is where Telus saves the day, and Jim provided numerous examples and case studies to show how they bring the true value of wireless to business customers. Fair enough - it's their event, after all - but I really liked the following as practical applications that any business would understand:

- Visual voice mail. Simple speech-to-text application, and for anyone using a smartphone, this is a no brainer. Jim stretched this out a bit by showing the amount of air time, roaming and LD savings that come from using this feature on the road.

- Navigation using GPS on a smartphone. It's not hard to see how getting real time, audible directions can save time, especially for sales and tech support staff who are out on the road visiting customers.

- Location-based services. Again, using GPS, but the examples were for asset and fleet tracking. Instead of using smartphones, Jim talked about attaching key fobs to the items being tracked. All kinds of valuable applications here - they may be mundane, but are very practical and have measurable value for businesses.

Nothing really new here for me, but it was good to hear all these messages in one place, especially here in Canada. The wireless market isn't as competitive as the U.S., and it's probably a bit more of an uphill battle here. Telus may have all the right offerings, including close partnerships with smartphone vendors like RIM, but I suspect it's hard for businesses to think about wireless solutions in isolation from their overall communications needs.

I'm sure that LAN/WAN-based environments dominate the decision-making, and that wireless needs to be considered in that context. Jim did make several references to how wireless ties into Unified Communications as well as the desire for businesses to have an integrated provider for all the communications needs, but this wasn't the focus of the event.

So, yes, I can see where the opportunities are for wireless to add value to businesses, and how Telus can fulfill them, but it's not the whole story for what businesses need. Perhaps Telus has other events coming along those lines, but if you wanted to hear their wireless story for business, then this session was a pretty good place to be.



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