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Insider: Enterprise FMC Advances

Enterprise fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) initiatives could help carriers to maintain revenues despite the falling costs of enterprise wireless, according to the latest monthly report from Unstrung Insider.

The report, entitled Enterprise FMC: Mobilizing the PBX, reports that carriers and users may find common ground in FMC with operators finally being able to offer more devices and applications dedicated to the business user. The user, meanwhile, will be able to buy and manage a much wider range of devices and applications than before.

"Broadly speaking, what's driving the enterprise FMC market from the supply side is the perception that the enterprise mobility market is vastly under-penetrated," writes report author Gabriel Brown.

"An oft-cited example is the market for mobile email solutions pioneered by companies such as BlackBerry – a market in which only a tiny percentage of the overall corporate email accounts have been mobilized."

Brown says that high-end PBX-based applications will initially drive take-up on the user side. "Enterprises are seeking the efficiency gains of mobility and remote working but are typically looking to build on existing PBX assets by adding mobility extensions," he writes. "They also see VOIP mobility as part of a larger communications strategy that is likely to include PC softphones and remote telephony services." Major PBX providers lead the development of FMC and will be the primary suppliers of high-end convergence equipment, according to Brown: "Companies such as Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco, Nortel, and Siemens have dedicated initiatives designed to extend the reach of corporate PBX systems and are working to port their VOIP clients to handheld business devices running Symbian and Windows Mobile."

Brown says Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is currently the leading player in this field of enterprise mobility. "Cisco has communicated a clear vision for enterprise-focused FMC, and has announced significant dual-mode smartphone handset partnerships with both Nokia and Motorola that we believe position it as a leading player in the enterprise mobility market."

There are, however, still several big unanswered questions about how "immature" FMC technologies will be implemented in the short- and long-term, Brown notes. "Decisions about which is the most appropriate technology to use and which party – enterprise or carrier – should control it depend to a large extent on the business model of the operator and the requirements of the enterprise concerned."

The major question will revolve around whether users or operators control enterprise deployments. "Perhaps the key market delineator is the extent to which enterprise FMC is controlled and managed by 'mobility appliances' deployed in the enterprise itself or hosted as software modules within the wireless carrier's IMS core-network architecture," writes Brown.

Over time, however, Brown expects these kinks to get ironed out: "Despite the potential for tension, businesses and carriers could both benefit from enterprise FMC by finding common ground. This will likely lead to a gradual and tiered integration of services and functionality into the carrier IMS core, which could lead to better decisions about cross-network mobility management than simply implementing an enterprise-hosted mobility appliance or gateway. Core PBX capabilities however, will be retained by the enterprise."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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