We are fortunate to be witnessing the beginning of an era of pervasive mobility, when access to information resources will not be determined by the availability or type of network access technology but rather by factors such as the desire, necessity, and eligibility to obtain information or services. Information and services will be requested and accessed not only by individuals but also by virtual and physical entities such as automated manufacturing processes, "smart" vending machines, information-collecting devices such as utility meters, intelligent cash registers, highway toll stations, security systems, and medical equipment. (See Chapter 9 for some anticipated next-generation services scenarios.) Remote network access service characteristics will not be dependent on geographical location, but rather on the existence of proper roaming and service agreements between home and visited data networks, allowing for home service profile retrieval into foreign networks. When proper agreements are in place, mobile entities or individuals will be able to receive services identical to those available in their "home" networking environments while roaming foreign networks.
So what drives the need for pervasive mobility, or permanently available uninterrupted on-demand connectivity? The most important drivers are productivity gains via advancing IT technology, the rise of the Internet, the ever-increasing speed of evolution of mobile devices, cellular and noncellular network coverage, and plummeting costs of cellular wireless service.
The changing role of information technology in corporations and institutions throughout the world was responsible for major productivity gains in the workplace during the last decade of the twentieth century. That was, of course, accompanied by the rise of the Internet, which brought together masses of information and united disparate communities of interest all over the world. However, massive computerization also brought total dependence on computing and information resources often available only at a limited number of select locations, such as corporate headquarters or data centers. The newly available services, so indispensable to users in their offices, are more and more often requested from remote locations such as satellite or home offices, customer sites, and from the road. These needs in turn drive demand for global network roaming and ubiquitous remote network access. The uncertainty of the location where the user will require access imposes the need for mobile (dynamic) private connectivity to the home network to be available throughout a wide area (also referred to as ubiquitous access).
It is hard to underestimate the role of personal communication and computing devices—such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), smart mobile phones, and laptop computers leaving the factory with multiple built-in wireless interfaces—in the evolution of mobile communications. Plummeting prices, increasing user-friendliness, and feature richness are now making these devices not only increasingly available and desirable for ever-increasing groups of mobile professionals, but often indispensable.
The latest example of such devices is a slew of PDAs and PDA-based mobile phones that are approaching earlier-generation desktop computers in memory and processing power. Manufacturers like HP, Toshiba, Sony, Nokia, and Palm are leading this trend. These small, low-powered wonders can support multiple modes of wireless communications (Infrared, Bluetooth, WLAN, and GPRS or CDMA2000), VPN clients, and a micro-browser bundled with the operating system. This combination of features makes them ideal for secure access to remote corporate networks.
The third driver for pervasive mobility is the rapid build-out and consolidation of cellular systems resulting in more and more uniform wide-area wireless coverage and increasingly inexpensive services. Cellular coverage has become so widespread and inexpensive that it is driving other technologies out of business. This resulted in a situation where alternative wide-area wireless access systems, such as satellite, had been deemed unnecessary by a paying public whose low demand forced them into bankruptcy or niche markets. Good examples of those are now defunct satellite operator Iridium and Inmarsat, which is forced to specialize on maritime navigation. In fact, cellular service in some areas, ranging from highly saturated European and Japanese markets to developing nations completely lacking landline infrastructure, became so ubiquitous and affordable that it began to replace landline phone service.
These and other technological advances account for the rise of pervasive mobility, which in turn continues to bring profound ongoing changes to our society, lifestyle, and workplace in how we communicate, how we receive information and news, and how we process the information. The 90's and the first years of the new millennium were essential in the formation of mobile technology. The way our society now uses cellular wireless networking and, specifically, wireless data technologies such as short messaging service (SMS) is the best indicator of these changes. From teenagers using SMS for "secret" communications to professionals in Japan using i-mode devices for banking services, wireless data users are fast approaching voice users in numbers and generated revenues. In fact, it is expected that wireless data will become the leading driving force of telecommunications in the coming decade.
Stopping short of producing yet another set of arguments in favor of this technology to add to the numerous articles and books already written, let's now turn our attention to the main subject of this book. In our view the next "hot" mobile technology will involve wireless data as a foundation for specialized services like location-based service, private environments, mobile-commerce (m-commerce), and MVPN. We discuss these services further in Chapter 9. For now, we start our discussion of MVPN by taking a brief tour of VPN history, then outlining Mobile VPN business case.