The Leading Edge of Business Communications
4G and Beyond: What’s in store for 2011?
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Smartphones, tablets, 4G wireless broadband, cloud computing, social networks and many other new technologies have changed the way businesses can interact with customers, vendors, suppliers, employees, resources and each other. To help busy business owners and managers stay abreast of these evolving developments, in this special section Hawaii Business has tapped some leading industry insiders to talk about what’s ahead in 2011 in high tech business communications.
Tech companies are going beyond selling the latest hardware and software
Marketing on Facebook to attract a target age group. Video chatting on-the-go with employees in the field. Shooting and sending an HD video from a branch on a Neighbor Island to the home office in Honolulu on a smartphone. A decade ago, none of these new technologies were available to businesses.
Welcome to the new world of business communications in the second decade of the 21st century – and there’s much more coming. You need not be a tech geek or even have one on your staff. Increasingly, tech companies are going beyond selling the latest hardware and software and are responding to customer needs by offering business communication solutions that allow companies to focus on their core competencies. To make sense of this ever-changing landscape and how it can help your business productivity, here’s what some of Hawaii’s leading communication technology companies say about business communications in 2011 and beyond.
OCEANIC TIME WARNER CABLE BUSINESS CLASS
“Higher speeds, greater access, and more flexibility to obtain information,” is how Cyrus Driver, vice president of Oceanic Time Warner Cable Business Class, characterizes business communications in 2011. He sees “converged communications” as a major industry trend for business customers. It’s about previously separate technologies, such as voice (and telephony features), data (and productivity applications), and video that now share resources and interact with each other, creating new efficiencies for getting and sharing information. For businesses, it can mean sending and receiving vital information on a variety of applications via cell phones, the Internet, land lines and new generation mobile wireless devices, such as tablets, in a faster, farther and wider way than ever before.
“Customers don’t have to worry about what technology to use or what software to have to run their technology,” explains Driver. “We can give customers the best possible business solutions from new software and hardware capacities for their communication needs.” These solutions can include connecting all the shops run by a business owner on the four major islands or sharing vital but large files of information from one end of the island to the other.
CMU-300 4G/3G USB Data Card
On March 1st, Oceanic Time Warner Cable Business Class launches land line phone service for businesses, the first of three major business communication initiatives projected for 2011, according to Driver. Coming sometime in the second quarter will be business-class 4G wireless broadband. Projected for mid-2011 is the launch of PRI (T-1) services for businesses. Already providing phone service and 4G for residential customers, Oceanic Time Warner Cable Business Class sees the business phone service launch as the latest addition to providing customers with a “complete portfolio of state-of-the-art business service communications,” he adds.
Also available to business customers are: high-speed fiber Internet services, broadband Internet service via cable or modem, managed security on the Internet, commercial video services to the hospitality and other industries, and cell backhaul services to ensure expeditious, secure and reliable 3G and 4G voice and text services for various wireless companies.
In Hawaii since 1969 to initially serve residential customers, Oceanic Time Warner Cable has developed a state-of-the-art network as the state’s largest provider for cable television and a major provider of high-speed Internet services, digital phone and mobile wireless Internet. Building a commercial platform on that network began about a decade ago to expand services to the business community. As new communication technologies emerge, business customers will likely see continued growth in their business services, says Driver.
Coming Soon: BlackBerry® 4G PlayBookTM Tablet
As the first to bring the 4G network to Hawaii in 2009, “Sprint Hawaii expects to continue seeing growth in 4G, a technology that makes business applications mobile and easy. Industries such as tourism, health care, and education and gaming are verticals that benefit the most from 4G,” says Sprint Hawaii Business Sales Manager Bryan Ito. “Sprint’s simplicity in our plans makes it easy for businesses in Hawaii to get most out of their phones without needing to use a calculator to tally up costs or guessing how much data they’ve used each month,” he adds.
Ito sees a new bar set for mobile communications by new 4G devices, such as HTC EVO 4G, Samsung Epic 4G and the latest phone, HTC EVO Shift 4G, which have blurred the lines between phones and tablets. They help your employees stay connected with customers, suppliers, and other contacts with applications, such as video chatting and file sharing, as well as “increase business productivity with email, calendar synchronization and Internet access all on-the-go, and at blazingly fast speeds,” he explains.
For businesses thinking about investing in new mobile devices for their staff, Ito says tablets will be big in 2011. In January, Sprint announced a new BlackBerry 4G Playbook, a 4G-enabled tablet, available later this year and is the first Blackberry Playbook to feature connectivity to Sprint’s 4G network to provide downloads speeds 10 times faster than 3G.1 For in-the-field employees, such as emergency personnel, real estate agents, construction crews, Ito says BlackBerry 4G Playbook will offer true multitasking and HD multimedia, in addition to advanced security features and enterprise support.
Sprint offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services to bring the freedom of mobility to consumers, businesses and government users. And it’s not just about cell phones. Sprint has already brought to market a wide array of business solutions, ranging from aircards, tablets, e-readers and digital signage to highly specialized devices and software, such as video surveillance, medical and fitness apps, says Ito.
By the end of third quarter 2010, Sprint nationally reached more than 48.8 million customers and was recognized with top business market honors in a survey of over 5,000 business customers for value, customer service and best in business solutions, according to Ito.
1 “Up to 10 times faster” based on download speed comparison of Sprint 3G avg. speeds (600 kbps-1.4 Mbps) vs.Sprint 4G avg. speeds (3-6 Mbps). Actual speeds may vary by plan or based on other factors.
Polycom® SoundPoint® IP
HICOMMUNICATIONS FOR CLEAR
As the authorized master dealer for CLEAR, Clearwire’s 4G wireless broadband WiMAX network, HiCommunications is focused on Next Generation communications technologies for small and medium size businesses, says Director of Sales and Marketing Tony Ng. The year-old company provides wireless office Internet service; on-the-go wireless Internet; a security suite offering McAfee products; and CLEAR Professional Voice, business communications solutions, in partnership with Ringcentral, to provide hosted phone systems designed for mobile and distributed businesses. According to its Web site, Ringcentral is the market leader in cloud computing-based phone systems designed to help small businesses manage mobile, fax, and e-mail communications. HiCommunications also offers professional business plans and a suite of products tailored to smaller companies.
“In the next couple of years, businesses are going to see more and more embedded devices with the CLEAR WiMAX chip built in,” says Ng. Eliminating routers and other connectivity devices, embedded devices, such as laptops, will simplify and increase high speed wireless mobility and access anywhere, anytime for business users, he adds. For smaller businesses, it can enable them to stay competitive with greater efficiencies.
Clear Spot 4G Personal Wi-Fi Hotspot
Ng points to the unveiling in January at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) of Motorola’s XOOM as the cutting edge of this mobility beyond laptops and smartphones. XOOM is the first device featuring Google’s new Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system designed specifically for tablets. Ng also cautions that network capacity – having a carrier with sufficient bandwidth capabilities – is an important consideration for businesses considering deploying mobile devices for their employees.
“CLEAR is the only carrier right now with unlimited 4G data capacity,” says Ng. That’s critical to ensure worry-free reliability and flexibility in wireless communication.
Ng also sees the ability of 4G wireless to enable running multiple applications at the same time to take business marketing on the Internet to the next level. More businesses have moved beyond standard, non-interactive Web sites and search engine advertising like Google, and turned to social media sites to appeal to potential new customers, says Ng. Facebook, Twitter and other Web 2.0 sites allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in social media and social networking sites, blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, hosted services, web applications and more.
“A business owner can communicate instantly with potential customers and get instant feedback on products and services through social media whenever through 4G wireless,” he adds.
HTC ThunderBoltTM 4G
In December, Honolulu International Airport became one of more than 60 airports and 38 cities nationwide chosen to launch Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution). In 2011, the 4G LTE service is expected to cover Honolulu, Lahaina and the Kahului-Wailuku area on Maui, according to Mark Yamauchi, director of sales for Verizon Wireless Hawaii, established in Hawaii in 2000.
“We will be announcing additional coverage as we expand throughout the year,” says Yamauchi. LTE is one of two current 4G wireless broadband technologies – the other is WiMAX – that provide networks for both enterprise and consumer broadband wireless customers.
With two 4G network choices to be available this year, Yamauchi says “the biggest advance in business communications in 2011 will be the rising productivity of mobile workers, who will no longer be chained to the office. By year end, high-speed wireless Internet access that’s very nearly as fast as your wired Internet at home or work will cover almost 70 percent of the U.S. population.”
Yamauchi says the new mobile work force can transform the way business is done. For example, wireless video conferencing and other business productivity tools become “not only for executives and road warriors, but also (for workers tasked with) inspecting remote facilities, construction sites and security updates,” he adds.
Verizon 4G LTE is uniquely engineered, says Yamauchi, as a reliable, high quality network for smartphones, tablets, netbooks and laptops. In addition to the long anticipated arrival in early February of Apple’s iPhone operating on its 3G network, Verizon Wireless is welcoming 10 new 4G smartphone devices, including the HTC Thunderbolt, DROID Bionic and soon-to-be-released 4G models from Samsung and LG. New tablet computers upgradeable to 4G for 2011 include the aforementioned Motorola XOOM, voted Best in Show at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, and the new Samsung Galaxy. Yamauchi also points out new mobile hotspot devices from Samsung and Novatel able to deliver 3G and 4G network connections to up to five other devices. Verizon Wireless will also begin selling a new Notebook computer from HP and a Compaq Netbook this year, he adds.
“Business customers can mobilize their information systems, enhancing flexibility and creating true efficiencies,” says Yamauchi. Streamlining work flow and customer service trafficking, for example, by collecting data in the field digitally (instead of with paper and pen) or by capturing a customer signature or scanning a bar code for a sale, can be snap with new state-of-the-art devices and technologies. Yamauchi reminds business owners and managers not to overlook how many work tasks can be automated and information made readily available anywhere at your fingertips through “the hundreds of thousands of mobile applications on a smartphone, tablet or laptop.”
In the “emerging area of machine-to-machine communications, we can securely track assets and allow manual data collection to wirelessly send data back to enable business decisions to be made in real time with timely information,” he adds.
Yamauchi believes that the new productivity of a mobile work force can help businesses that utilize the emerging technology to position their companies as a leader in the market place. Verizon Wireless, which has been consistently recognized for best call quality and best customer service, can help businesses meet this new evolution in business communications by “improving their workflow, improving their image with their customers and creating lasting customer experiences,” he says.
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