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We'd love to go wireless but what about security?

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European businesses are keen to embrace wireless technologies, in all their flavours, but doubts about security are continuing to act as a brake on wider usage of wireless LANs.

That's the main finding of a study by researcher Frost & Sullivan on attitudes towards the adoption of wireless technology in the enterprise and perceptions of vendors and operators.

Conducted with over a hundred IT Directors, operations managers and buyers across eight European countries, the survey uncovers a significant degree of awareness of wireless technologies and services (encompassing Bluetooth, WLAN, SMS, HSCSD, GPRS and WAP) within European enterprises.

Wireless data services and the devices used to access them can have clear business benefits to the enterprise when linked to useful applications and utilised by the right employees. However, as security concerns continue to escalate throughout the enterprise and costs remain high, subscriber rates for wireless data services continue to suffer.

Frost & Sullivan observes a growing consensus that adoption was providing a range of practical and compelling business benefits among survey participants in the enterprise space. Applications such as email, personal information management (PIM), and customer relationship management (CRM) were all being performed using wireless data services.

Commenting on the findings, Michael Wall, Industry Analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said: "Overall, our survey shows that there is strong momentum behind the adoption of wireless technologies and services across European enterprises. However, there is still significant room for improvement from device vendors and service providers in all parts of the wireless industry."

Generally, the performance of mobile operators was highly rated by respondents to the survey, with few planning to switch provider. Users were "fairly happy" with handsets too. However Frost & Sullivan's survey did highlight areas where customers wanted to see improvement.

"The key issues that must be addressed in order to gain competitive advantage are reliability of equipment and services, cost of equipment and services and, most significantly, improved security," Wall added.

Security remains at the forefront of wireless technology adoption, particularly where WLAN implementation is concerned. The key issues for WLAN adopters are based around perceived security weaknesses attached to the standard.

Despite widespread security concerns, Frost & Sullivan notes that WLAN technology has made "major inroads" into the enterprise market in recent years, with a strong presence of the 802.11b Wi-Fi standard.

Although the survey indicated huge opportunity for growth within the WLAN market there was little evidence that demand was moving towards the higher speed 802.11a standard.

Most respondents using WLAN technology have seen clear benefits from the decision to invest, though the technology is generally seen as one for specific types of employees rather than a blanket solution for networking all computing services users.

Meanwhile, Bluetooth-enabled cellular phones emerged as the most popular Bluetooth products expected to be purchased by enterprises, followed by personal computing devices and peripherals.

The key application for Bluetooth is generally notebook to cellular phone connectivity.

The survey found that, overall, demand for Bluetooth-enabled products within the enterprise is still fairly low buy awareness and understanding of the technology has grown since Frost & Sullivan carried out its previous end-user research in mid-2001.

Concerns over security, cost and useful applications have proved to be a stumbling block that must be overcome to unleash the full potential of the Bluetooth market, Frost & Sullivan believes. ®

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