IT managers should take an active role in approaching operators to shape mobile applications that will be of use to their business.
Neil Ward-Dutton, principal wireless analyst at Ovum Research, said that operators had experimented with delivering data services during 2003.
But the future will see a consolidation of players and an aggregation of their capabilities which enterprises can exploit.
"We are poised for a sea change in the way operators do business," he explained.
"2004 will be a Darwinian year for suppliers and will leave a few mega service providers that can deliver a wide range of services over 2G, 3G, fixed and wireless local area networks."
Ward-Dutton suggested that the recently announced partnership between Microsoft and Vodafone to add mobile web services is "significant for enterprises interested in deploying mobile applications".
The analyst predicted that similar deals between large IT and network equipment vendors would follow, which IT managers can use to their advantage.
"Enterprises must be very proactive and go and talk to Microsoft and Vodafone," he said.
"IT managers should say what they want. They have an awful lot of power to shape terms and how applications evolve.
"Suppliers need their help as they don't necessarily understand the business needs, but they want to make the relationship with the enterprise stickier."
But in order to become more attractive to the enterprise, operators must deliver many services over multiple networks and change their architectural approach, according to Ward-Dutton.
"Operators will have to deliver capability across different types of networks to all the workforce whether they are on 2G, 3G or wireless Lans to make the proposition work for the enterprise," he explained.
Anders Wasterlid, group chief technology officer for products and vice president of group product services at mm02, said that the mobile operator is "breaking the barriers to using data services".
"The real challenge is how we make the data services simple and easy to use rather than the platforms," he added.
"It is not about new technology or 3G but getting customers to use the services. Corporate access must be deployable across all networks and easy to understand and use."
Wasterlid insisted that operators would focus on vertical solutions. "They take a lot of customisation to solve their problems," he said.
"It is no good having a generalised approach. All sectors - health, construction and education - have some areas where a wireless solution makes sense."
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