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Mobile Web Adds to Importance of Wireless Network Testing

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April 01, 2010

Mobile Web Adds to Importance of Wireless Network Testing

By David Sims
TMCnet Contributing Editor

We all know about the rise of smartphones. But SMBs are increasingly relying on wireless technology, and major carriers are taking notice.

AT&T (News - Alert) recently conducted a study, which revealed small businesses are, in fact, “increasingly dependent on wireless technology.” The study’s authors found that wireless technologies are “increasingly being seen as crucial for the survival of today’s growing businesses.”

Nearly two-thirds of businesses -- 65 percent -- said it would be “a major challenge” to survive, if they could survive at all, without wireless technology.

Study officials concluded that there’s a “rapid increase” in the perceived importance of wireless technology, since in a similar AT&T study from 2007, only 42 percent of businesses said it would be difficult to survive without it.

Timothy Doherty, associate research analyst for SMB Mobility, called wireless technology 'a critical business tool that allows mobile workers to stay in touch with colleagues and customers, and to access company data on the move.'

What this means, of course, is that major carriers are also taking testing much more seriously. Verizon (News - Alert) Wireless has employed real-life test men and women to test the company’s network (“Can you hear me now?”), and over the past ten years has “more than tripled” the size of that fleet, company officials say, currently fielding more than 100 test vehicles.

And we’re not talking a couple geeks in a car -- the vehicles are late-model, four-wheel drive utility vehicles “each costing approximately $240,000 when fully outfitted with network testing gear,” company officials say, currently focused on testing new markets in Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

What gets tested has also gotten more sophisticated. Ten years ago Verizon primarily testef for voice call quality, today people are using far more smartphones and wireless data services, so the testing needs to determine whether a data session connected, how it connected and how quickly that connection was made.

AT&T’s 3G MicroCell femtocell will be available in some markets next month as the telecom provider moves to free up spectrum space, Information Week has reported: “The $150 device could be particularly helpful for iPhone (News - Alert) users, many of whom have been plagued by dropped calls caused by AT&T’s often congested network.”

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Marisa Torrieri

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