By MICHAEL FOREMAN
New Zealanders may be flocking to buy mobile phones, but most businesses are still ignorant of the benefits of wireless data.
This rather bleak view was a recurring theme in presentations at the Wireless Data Forum's inaugural seminar and exhibition last week.
"In a market of 3.6 million people where 38 per cent of the population owned mobile phones, the wireless data industry has achieved a penetration of 3 to 5 per cent," said keynote speaker and Motorola Asia Pacific business development manager Simon Dixon. "We have to ask ourselves what are the major barriers to growth."
Despite these frank opening words, the mood of the seminar - held at Alexandra Park convention centre in Auckland - was upbeat. Around 340 mobile phone resellers, distributors and application developers squeezed into a hall that seated 250 people.
The seminar included an exhibition of mobile data technology from 25 companies, including the first public demonstration by Walker Wireless of its VOIP (voice over internet protocol) technology.
The Wireless Data Forum, which consists of about 50 member companies, was first formed late last year on the initiative of Luigi Cappel, managing director of the mobile information technology specialist Mission Control.
Members include telcos Telecom New Zealand, Vodafone and Telstra, mobile phone manufacturers Motorola, Ericsson, Nokia and Philips, as well as portable computer distributors.
"We've been able to get companies which are fierce competitors in the marketplace to sit round the table and discuss how we can do better business," said Mr Cappel.
The organisation would attempt to improve the industry's poor market penetration with customer education and by developing strategic partnerships between large and small firms.
The forum was interested in recruiting members, who could make contact through its website.
The forum would not lobby the Government directly, according to Mr Cappel, as this role was fulfilled by the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand.
However, he said, he had struggled to get the present and previous Governments to pay any attention to the wireless data industry, which he believed held the promise of considerable export earnings.
Wireless Data Forum
By MICHAEL FOREMAN