February 14, 2001

Wireless technology promises anywhere, anytime Internet access. But wireless e-business won't move beyond niche applications anywhere or anytime soon if spotty security, immature standards, patchy service and other nagging shortcomings aren't addressed, business mangers said.

Some 76% of the 101 IT and business managers surveyed by InternetWeek, a New York-based sister publication to BS&T, said their companies aren't using wireless Web technology. Half of those companies plan to do so but not for at least a year.

Why the inertia? The biggest concern is security, cited by 77% of the managers now using or planning to use wireless Web access technology. Other major concerns are the lack of reliable standards (69%), lack of Web or enterprise integration products (61%), inadequate bandwidth (54%), high costs of technology (49%) and the quality of technology (44%).

The stability of wireless technology is another big concern for IT managers. Currently, the most noteworthy specifications for building and deploying wireless applications are the Wireless Markup Language (WML) and the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). WML is an XML-based language that specifies content and a user interface for cell phones and other narrow-bandwidth devices. WAP, the de facto wireless communications protocol backed by a global consortium of product vendors and carriers, uses WML to format content for small screens.

In its current iteration, WAP isn't mature enough for e-business applications, especially when it comes to security, observers say.

"The WAP architecture violates every common-sense networking scheme ever invented," said Gartner Group analyst Bob Egan. "The world is anxiously awaiting the next revision."