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Nextel Steps Up Wireless Business Solutions

Nextel Steps Up Wireless Business Solutions

Nextel is building on its industrial voice service success with a broad professional data service that features 30 new J2ME applications, with 20 more in the works. Starting with several choice partnerships and customers old and new, it is now set up to deliver tailored mobile data solutions.

Applications
The available applications bring more than access to corporate databases, and e-mail and Internet access to the table. The various developer offerings provide a range of utilities from fleet management services, such as GPS, to package shipping automation that interfaces with current package delivery systems. Whether a business has its own Java applications or any of the 30 from Nextel or Nextel partners, they need to deploy and update them. Nextel's Wireless Business Solutions include its Mobile Application Manager, which does just that.

"Businesses end up with a collection of applications, but now they need to distribute those applications to their end users," says Ernie Cormier, VP, Enterprise Solutions, Nextel Communications, Inc. "They need to maintain user lists and applications.

"Along with our partner Motorola and a partner called Fourthpass, we developed a hosted service that we deliver to our customers that gives them a place to store those applications. We maintain distribution lists and make it easy for that list to be generated. We populate it from our own database.

"Then we give them a means to select a group of applications and send that group to a list of users. You never have to tether your phone; you never have to connect it to a PC. This service [Mobile Application Manager] goes out over the air and downloads those applications into the user's phone," he explains.

Data Network As Good As the Apps That Cross It
The iDEN network built by Nextel (licensed from Motorola) provides reliability and sufficient speed for the new Java applications, which are, by nature, quick and light. The iDEN network, or Integrated Digital Enhanced Network, is an always-on network that accepts any applications or traffic that the Internet or any other IP network does. "It runs at up to 19.2Kbps. We have customers like ABF, FedEx, Airborne, and many others who are running applications on our network today that are mission critical to their businesses" says Cormier.

Device Friendly
As logic would lead you to believe, this combination of an IP network and J2ME applications does not limit you to just one device type. Nextel's primary device is its phone (equipped with Java for almost two years now, with 2 million owners and counting). With Nextel's iM1100 type 2 card modem (PCMCIA), you can connect to the iDEN network with a laptop or handheld. Nextel's BlackBerry device (see WBT v.2 n.3), due out soon, also uses iDEN.

"Developed with partners Research-In-Motion and Motorola, our BlackBerry device has everything that's on a BlackBerry advanced e-mail device plus everything that's on a Nextel phone, including Direct Connect, which is our long-range, Walkie Talkie feature, plus Java", says Cormier.

Supportive Indeed
But Nextel isn't serving up a bare-bones network, devices, and Java with a laissez-faire approach. Rather, a full complement of maintenance and support can be assumed. With a legacy of serving an 85% business customer base, Nextel has firsthand awareness of the necessary components of delivering quality data and voice network services for mission-critical business initiatives. "It's all oriented around delivering quality, necessary uptime, and management capability to our customers," says Cormier.

The Money Bodes Well
Despite the accounting shenanigans others have been caught in of late, slow and steady growth toward profitability is still a reliable barometer of future success. "We had a great last quarter. We were profitable for the first time. We have been able to consistently meet our numbers," says Cormier.

Scott Ellison, program director, Wireless and Mobile Communications, IDC, agrees: "They've made their numbers; they've been doing quite well from a financialSperspective."

How will Wireless Business Solutions affect Nextel's bottom line? "From an analyst perspective it should only help," says Ellison.

Nextel is making the most logical move toward growth. By leveraging several consistently good quarters (which overall exceeded analyst expectations in terms of customer additions), it intends to successfully enter new markets, building on its strong foundation. Nextel has been able to affirm and reaffirm its ability to deliver in the face of record economic and technology sector lows. By organizing its sales force around verticals, growing and enhancing the sales force itself, attracting experts who can create new solutions, and developing top industry partnerships where appropriate (to be able to deliver what the customer needs), Nextel has positioned itself to meet future numbers.

Speaking of Partners
Current partners include SUN, Motorola, IBM, EDS, and RIM. Many more are expected in the weeks and months ahead. What's interesting is Nextel's approach to collaborating. While asserting its strengths in its platform, and the numerous solutions it will give birth to in just the next year alone, Nextel maintains and proffers an attitude that it will seek and establish any number of partnerships to meet its customers demands for specific solutions.

Where they are not hardware providers for new handhelds or laptops, or systems integrators or software providers, they will find partners that are the best names in the business. "It's important for our potential customers to realize that we are probably the best of breed in the business in that we can deliver the solution they need, each partner bringing its own strengths to the table," says Cormier.

More Stories By David Geer

David Geer is a contributing writer to WBT, a journalist, and a computer technician. He graduated from Lake Erie College in 1993 with a BA in psychology and has worked in the computer industry and in the media since 1998.

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