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The Business of Fixed/Mobile ConvergenceThe Business of Fixed/Mobile Convergence

Enterprise fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) initiatives are ready to deliver more efficient business communications.

June 22, 2006

3 Min Read
The Business of Fixed/Mobile Convergence

Fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) initiatives that extend enterprise communications services across corporate, broadband, and cellular networks have long promised, but rarely delivered, a world of more efficient business communications.

Now the wireless networking equipment, infrastructure software, and dual-mode smartphones required to make enterprise FMC meet key business objectives are almost mature enough to deploy, finds the latest Unstrung Insider report Enterprise Fixed/Mobile Convergence & Wireless VOIP.

Enterprise FMC generally refers to the ability to use communications applications – primarily voice, for now – across fixed, wireless, and mobile access networks from a variety of terminals. This typically involves projecting private branch exchange (PBX) telephony features (short-code dialing, conferencing, etc), as well as applications such as instant messaging and presence, into the wide-area cellular network and to dual-mode handsets operating on the corporate wireless local-area network (WLAN).

Making this happen in practice is clearly a major challenge and there are several competing visions and architectures for how best to serve enterprise users.

A key market delineator is the extent to which cross-network mobility is controlled by "mobility appliances" deployed in the enterprise itself, or by hosted software modules within the wireless carrier’s IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) core network architecture. Both scenarios have pros and cons from a technical and implementation perspective, and both offer a different value case to service providers and enterprise customers.

Lining up on the enterprise side are the major PBX vendors, such as Avaya Inc. , Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and the enterprise groups of the major telecom equipment providers. They’re joined by a group of forward-looking startups, including Calypso Wireless Inc. , DiVitas Networks Inc. , FirstHand Technologies , and OnRelay Ltd. , and wireline- and WLAN-oriented providers such as Cicero Networks Ltd. and LongBoard Inc. Also in the mix from the enterprise software side are companies such as Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), with its Live Communications Server, and BlackBerry , with its recent Ascendent Systems acquisition.

They key point about the above companies is that they’re pitching architectures that require no changes to the wireless carrier core network, and yet claim to save enterprises money on cellular calling while delivering the efficiency benefits of converged applications to end users.

Lining up on the carrier side are the usual telecom equipment suspects – Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Nortel Networks Ltd. , and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE). While in some cases these companies also supply a significant amount of enterprise equipment, their real motivation for enterprise FMC is to help operators increase usage of mobile business services.

Typically, these telecom vendors are pushing a vision of enterprise FMC where cross-network mobility management is implemented in an IMS core network, with an interface into the enterprise PBX and messaging servers. This strategy reflects the fact that wireless operators are still wary of technologies, such as VOIP and WLAN, that have the potential to reduce their control (and by implication revenues and profits) over mobile services.

This is a logical position for operators in the short and medium term, but ultimately they need to weigh the benefits of gouging existing customers on price and control against the longer-term benefits of increasing the penetration of mobility services in the enterprise market, even if that means some loss of control and pricing power.

And what do enterprises want?

Cheaper and more efficient communications, obviously. But this doesn’t mean they are demanding about wanting to run their own telephony empires. In many cases, they would welcome the opportunity to hand over responsibility to third parties if they could retain control over features that would help them reign in cost per user, such as policy enforcement and auditing.

— Gabriel Brown, Chief Analyst, Unstrung Insider

The report, Enterprise Fixed/Mobile Convergence & Wireless VOIP , is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Unstrung Insider, priced at $1,350. Individual reports are available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.unstrung.com/insider.

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