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AT&T: We've Got FMC Too

An AT&T executive has fired back at the suggestion that BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) might be leading the race to fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) -- in the form of an integrated wireline, wireless, and VOIP phone offering -- saying AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) should have a commercially available service in 12 to 18 months.

"Those are just trials," said Eric Shepcaro, vice president of strategy and business development at AT&T, in a visit to Light Reading's offices yesterday, when asked about BT's announcement earlier this month of its Fusion program (see BT Unveils FMC Service)."We are going to be working on the same trials and tests. The realm of commercial availability is 12 to 18 months."

The BT Fusion project, formerly known as Bluephone, has entered trials using a handset developed by Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) that will enable the user to roam between fixed and wireless networks using Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) technology (see UMA Gains Ground).

Initially, BT is using Bluetooth technology to route Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) mobile network calls through a wireless access point -- called the BT Hub -- and onto a fixed BT broadband line. But the firm plans to move to a SIP-based wireless LAN handset in the next 12 to 18 months.

BT and AT&T aren't the only ones heading toward FMC. BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS) and Cingular Wireless LLC are working together on an FMC trial -- also referred to as "seamless mobility" -- in Atlanta (see BellSouth Trials Convergence).

FMC startup Persona Software Inc., formerly known as LongBoard, says that it expects to see up to 20 carriers worldwide running FMC trials this year. Beyond cellular-to-WiFi roaming, established vendors and startups are starting to pull together a number of different applications for FMC services (see IMS: What Are the Hot Apps?).

FMC is just one of the mobile/wireless services that AT&T has been talking up recently. Last week the carrier announced that it will trial WiMax metropolitan-area technology towards the end of this year (see AT&T Plots WiMax Trial ).

— R. Scott Raynovich, US Editor, Light Reading
Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung, contributed to this story.

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