Fixed/Mobile Convergence Ramps Up

Differences in the core networks of fixed and mobile technologies will all but disappear by 2012, according to the latest report from Light Reading's research division, Heavy Reading. The merging of wireline and wireless networks and services is one of the most hyped developments in telecom. To date, a glut of service providers and vendors has jumped on the convergence bandwagon, aiming to promote the benefits of an integrated network (see BT Talks Up FMCA and Nokia, TI Trial Convergence).

But is talk of convergence just the latest round of marketing hogwash, or a serious reality?

Heavy Reading's "Fixed-Mobile Convergence Reality Check" finds that service providers are taking a fairly optimistic view of Fixed-Mobile Convergence (FMC). "By and large they believe it is going to bring fundamental changes to the structure of telecommunications markets,” notes report author, Graham Finnie. “Results from our online survey indicate a strong belief that FMC will eliminate the barriers that now exist between wireline and wireless networks over the next decade.”

Finnie touts the 2006-2007 timeframe as the most important period in FMC technology and service development. “This means that the time to prepare for FMC is already at hand.”

On that note, the nascent IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) market is expected to play a key role in encouraging core network convergence. Originally defined by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 5 specifications for 3G networks, IMS provides a SIP-based control layer with open interfaces to the transport layer and the services layer above. It gives carriers control over services on a per-session basis, and is expected to provide unprecedented flexibility to the way mobile data is delivered to the subscriber (see Vendors Prep for IMS Fight and IP Multimedia Subsystems: Easy Does It).

“In the longer-term vision for convergence, one technology dominates: the IP Multimedia System,” says Finnie. “For incumbent telcos, this should enable the transition to a single core network able to handle the needs of both fixed and mobile subsidiaries, which are largely separately handled today.”

This convergence of infrastructure leads Finnie to conclude that, in the core network at least, “the boundaries between fixed and mobile technologies will be largely dissolved by 2010-2012.”

The 59-page Heavy Reading report, "Fixed-Mobile Convergence Reality Check," costs $3,495. For more information, please click on this link.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

mattieus 12/5/2012 | 3:13:40 PM
re: Fixed/Mobile Convergence Ramps Up It's 2007 and next week is VoiceCon. As predicted, 2006-2007 have proven to be most important. The players are out, solutions and buzz have swarmed. PBX and non-PBX solutions have been developed. We are now in the throws of taming the beast to make it a reality. No clear winner yet, but many contestants are emerging.

I sincerely doubt that landlines will be a thing of the past anytime soon (many people still have VHS players). The wrinkles have yet to be made, not to mention be ironed out. Support, partnerships, protocol, and devices are still on the drawing board. 2012 is turning out to be a very good guess. I'll be checking in on VoiceCon to get a better pulse.
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 1:00:06 AM
re: Fixed/Mobile Convergence Ramps Up 2012? Does light reading really believe a landline voice business will still exist then? Exactly what is converging with wireless? POTS? My bet is that by 2008, voice becomes a "feature" in a multimedia bundle, not a "product." What layer one media is used for the last mile, air, copper or fiber, should be immaterial well before then.
alchemy 12/5/2012 | 1:00:05 AM
re: Fixed/Mobile Convergence Ramps Up The issue with VoIP for Mobile is that it wastes bandwidth due to all the packet header overhead. This may not be a big deal on broadband but it really matters on a wireless network where bandwidth is so scarse. Your basic 2G wireless 20 millisecond voice frame has very little packet overhead. When you're running a modern compression codec over VoIP, you have 2 to 15 bytes of payload and a relatively huge 20-40-byte header. You can use packet header compression/supression techniques to minimize the problem but it's going to be a while before this is 100% standarized and then a number of years of baking before it gets deployed in the radio network on a massive scale. 2012 sounds reasonable to me. This could accelerate if a 3G network is deployed where there's a lot more bandwidth than todays 2G and 2.5G networks. Before then, I think you'll see multi-mode phones that go VoIP over WiFi or Bluetooth whenever possible to avoid consuming that scarce radio bandwidth.
somedumbPM 12/5/2012 | 1:00:05 AM
re: Fixed/Mobile Convergence Ramps Up I think landline will still exist as no RBOC will be able to afford the all of the court cases that go along with dropped 911 calls.
OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 12:59:36 AM
re: Fixed/Mobile Convergence Ramps Up I agree with both the previous replies.

I remember as a user at the ATM Forum founding meeting being all excited about the new ATM techonolgy that was going to fix my company's high speed requirements, primarily converging voice, data and bandwidth consuming video (conferencing).

At a break I had lunch with one of the RBOC technologist and he said ATM wouldn't generally be available for ten years. I thought he was crazy and that our enterprise would then do it ourselves. Well he was right. Boeing and Disney were first with their own high speed ATM networks about 5-7 years later. RBOCs much later. Patients!

Besides there still are technical issues for the economical convergence, especially putting it all together efficiently. RBOCs will wait for this, especially in the core network.

materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 12:59:21 AM
re: Fixed/Mobile Convergence Ramps Up RBOCs might wait, but will users? Will MSOs? VoIP, espcially using SIP, is more of a "roll your own" proposition than installing ATM switches. Cell phones with VoIP-over-WiFi, along with SIP-based applications running from PCs over any network gear may just take off like a tidal wave. What is the limit to growth there?
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