Davoli, an electrical engineer with a PhD in virtual environments, is also on the Australian Government's Foresight Working Group, which looks at future technology trends. He has written a white paper looking at wireless LANs as a complement to GPRS and so-called third generation (3G) services.
He says that in the US, vendors offering only wireless LAN hot spot services are “folding” almost every day.
“Just offering that service isn't going to work, and telcos that just offer 3G also won't see the returns they expect in the short term."
Davoli says the way to build a user base and ARPU (average returns per user) is to get customers used to mobile data first and building wireless LANs is the perfect way to do it.
"It's in the office, it's familiar, they already have the applications they want and need. It's not scary and new and you don't have to convince anyone that building a LAN is a good thing."
Once users are comfortable with wireless LAN connectivity, Davoli says they will demand the same kind of access when they're beyond the reach of the W-LAN and that's where 3G services come into play.
"The user doesn't care how they connect - this isn't a technology issue for them, it's an application issue. If they need access to email, they need access and that's all there is to it."
Davoli says at Ericsson this is referred to as ABC: always best connection.
"If you're in the hot spot then you're connected via the wireless LAN, but if you roam away from it you connect over GPRS or 3G. Ultimately the end user won't even know which network they're on. It will offer seamless roaming."
Ericsson is hard at work building such devices but one New Zealand company is already working to introduce such a network here: Auckland-based Walker Wireless.
Walker's managing director Bob Smith says the company's new "fourth generation" network allows users to do just what Davoli is talking about.
"It doesn't do the automatic hand off yet, but that will come with time." Smith says Walkers is almost ready to begin commercial testing of its new network in conjunction with Vodafone.
"We've built the capability in the back end. We're also doing some [wireless LAN] sites and some capability of GPRS to our email server as well."
Walkers will trial the service across "a range of customer types" from corporates down to consumer users.
Davoli's white paper, "W-LAN as a complement to GPRS and 3G services" is available online here.