UMA : Next Year's Model?
Being able to seamlessly move voice calls between cellular, WiFi, and other wireless networks is seen as a potentially big step forward for enterprise users, but it probably won't happen for at least a year or longer, according to users and analysts.
One of the first convergence technologies expected out of the gate is unlicensed mobile access (UMA). This form of FMC has been embraced by carriers and vendors alike and is currently being tested by Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) in Finland. (See Nokia Trials FMC.)
Some users are keeping a keen eye on UMA's progress but aren't expecting speedy deployments.
"The technology is promising and exciting, however, we’re not making plans -- or even planning to plan -- for UMA integration yet," says Gary Goerke, information systems manager at Farmington Hills, MI-based real estate firm Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust. "I would say the timing is greater than 12 months even for cutting-edge, early adopter companies."
Analyst Rob Enderle at the Enderle Group actually wonders if UMA technology, which essentially gives carriers control of calls across cellular and WiFi networks, could be a bit of a white elephant in the enterprise.
"The problem isn’t technology. The problem is that PBX profit comes from handsets; they basically give the PBX away to get handset and service revenue," he tells Unstrung. "That means to implement this at an enterprise level it’s a rip-and-replace." Even if UMA becomes part of a wireless voice-over-IP build-out, adds Enderle, the value resides in the handset -- making it unlikely that vendors will enthusiastically support a UMA device that runs over the enterprise network.
The involvement of networking vendors like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), and Nortel Networks Ltd. is critical to make the technology suitable for the enterprise. Cisco, for one, is already working with Nokia on PBX-based FMC technology, but it's not clear if the UMA specification is part of that picture. (See Cisco, Nokia Team on FMC.)
Enderle, however, expects UMA to make more of a dent in the small-business market. "If UMA does appear, it is likely to happen at the other end of the market, small business doesn’t use PBXs and many now live off of cell phones," Enderle says. "I would expect the wave here rather than [large] enterprises first. I think we are within two years of such offerings."
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung