INDUSTRY PULSE: U.S. transportation firms embrace wireless to reduce operating costs, says study

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RESTON, Va. A major new opinion poll of information technology and telecom decision makers at U.S. transportation companies shows increased adoption of wireless technology in day-to-day business operations as a cost-effective way to improve operations and customer service.

This movement is being fueled by the availability of push-to-talk service, wireless local area network (WLAN) and global positioning systems (GPS) solutions, as well as a desire by companies to extend their wireless barcode scanning capabilities.

The survey, commissioned by Nextel, and conducted by Harris Interactive, polled 78 transportation executives across the United States and found the industry’s top four uses of wireless technology as cellular calls (98%) for use by executives and sales staff, push-to-talk service (69%), BlackBerry devices (58%) and barcode scanning (60%). In addition, transportation firms highlighted the growing use of WLANs for their office campuses and warehouses.

The transportation sector also identified geographic coverage (67%) as the primary criterion for selecting a wireless carrier, far outpacing data network speeds (9%) and pricing (11%), opening the door for providers who can extend their geographic reach to include deeper in-building coverage.

The study found that GPS technology is more widely used within the transportation industry, with 69 percent of respondents using GPS for navigation and routing updates.

A majority (61%) of transportation firms also said they see a need for a combination of cellular and WiFi capabilities, while nearly half (45%) of respondents thought a wireless phone integrated with a handheld PC or BlackBerry device would be useful.

“The goal of the survey was to document the emerging role of wireless communications in large and medium-sized enterprises in transportation,” said Barry Goodstadt, vice president and senior consultant for the Customer Loyalty Management Research Group at Harris Interactive.

“The transportation industry has a well-earned reputation as wireless trailblazers. This survey underscores that notion, highlighting how transportation firms are continuing to innovate and invest in their wireless evolution layering in solutions such as GPS to deepen the gains they are achieving with wireless voice and data. That said, more than 40 percent of respondents in this survey identify cost as a barrier to wireless adoption,” said Henry Popplewell, vice president of transportation, distribution and retail for Nextel, who added the company would attempt to increase its market penetration and offer low-cost wireless business solutions.

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