Editor’s note: Charles Davidson, who writes about the Atlanta tech scene for Local Tech Wire, is covering Supercomm this week. Services for big companies will lead the growth of wireless data communications in the coming years, according to wireless industry executives gathered at Supercomm in Atlanta.

One of the major focuses of such services will likely be helping wireless carriers bill their customers. That’s because in providing wireless access to the Internet, carriers must charge based on volume, as opposed to the “all-you-can-eat” billing schemes typically employed for U.S. cellular phone and wireline Internet services, said Hamid Akhavan, chief technical officer for T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom. Deutsche Telekom is the world’s third largest mobile phone company.

In addition, voice carriers can’t charge customers more for a valued call from a relative than for an annoying call from a telemarketer. But operators must bill wireless data customers according to the perceived value of the data they send and receive, added Peter Lojko, president and CEO of WaterCove Networks, a Boston-based wireless software maker.

Indeed, Lojko thinks the biggest challenge for wireless data carriers in the future will be crafting services that make money, because profits won’t come simply from selling access to their bandwidth.

The ability to charge users based on the value of content means the operators must conjure ways to provide valuable services, Lojko said. Examples might include the ability to link an outside wireless network with a company’s in-house virtual private network. This could include the ability to break down bills for individual users: their business usage on the wireless Internet would be billed to the company, while their personal usage could be separated and billed to a different account.

Corporations will happily pay for their workers to use wireless Internet service to actually conduct business – to access the internal information networks of partners, vendors and customers, added Lawrence Lang, the general manager of Cisco’s mobile wireless group. Employers will be less sanguine about paying for workers in the field to wirelessly browse for sports news or Hollywood gossip.

Another form of bill sharing would allow online content sellers, say Virgin Multimedia, to split revenue for wireless music downloads with its wireless carrier, Lojko said. If a Virgin customer downloads a song for $2, maybe 50 cents goes to the carrier and the rest to Virgin.

The logic behind that sort of arrangement is simple. The transaction would eat up a lot of the carrier’s finite wireless bandwidth, Lojko explained, therefore the carrier would want to be paid for the use of that limited resource.

“Wireless bandwidth will always be expensive,” said Shannon Maher, vice president and general manager of wireless services at AOL Time Warner’s America Online.

There are other issues dogging the wireless data business. Notably, the industry continues to be plagued by a jumble of competing network technologies and standards used by different countries and carriers, the executives said.

“Things are not getting clearer,” said Akhavan.

As newer generation wireless networks are installed, more technologies and standards are proliferating, he said. This means, for example, that most users can’t smoothly go online using the same network from their laptop, desktop, Blackberry and mobile phone.

And American travelers often can’t use their mobile phones in Europe and vice versa. Within a few years, this issue will probably be solved. There’s plenty of work yet to do, but Akhavan said it’s “inevitable” that international airports will house machines into which travelers insert their mobile phones and have them quickly programmed to work in whatever country they’re in.

That will require smarter phones that are controlled by software, but “it’s coming,” Akhavan said. He noted that large companies have been working for years on the technologies that would underpin such a system.

Telemarketing at a new level

Pop-up ads on your cell phone? Screen savers for mobile phones? Sending pictures from one mobile phone to another?

The first is probably on the way. The second and third combined are already a business worth more than a billion bucks a year in Europe, AOL’s Maher said.

Pop-up ads, already prevalent on the Internet, will probably be OK with wireless carriers. The question is whether consumers will stand for it, Maher figures. “It’s a dicey, dicey space,” he said. “There’s an opportunity there, but you’d better get it right.”