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Why Vendors Can't Sell FMC

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Spring VON 2007 -- Fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) services like dualmode voice aren't catching on very fast in the U.S. and Europe, and vendors seem mixed on how operators should make the sale to consumers.

The sale of dualmode handsets is a good measure of consumer and operator acceptance. The VP of business development for Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)'s multimedia unit, Janne Kari, says his company has sold 347 million singlemode wireless handsets over the past year, but only about 39 million "convergence devices."

Kari says Asian operators are now rolling out dualmode services, that European operators are just getting going, and that North American ones have yet to seriously address the service. (See Deutsche Telekom Cancels FMC Service.)

Representatives from Nokia, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), BridgePort Networks Inc. , LongBoard Inc. , NewStep Networks Inc. , and Pirelli SpA (Milan: PECI.MI) have varying opinions on what might drive operators and consumers toward the technology in the future.

FMC services access resources on both wireline and wireless networks and can move content to fixed or wireless devices. The first FMC service is dualmode phone service, in which calls move back and forth between WiFi networks and cellular networks without interruption. Panelists here said future versions of dualmode will extend that voice capability to data and multimedia services.

The panelists here identified two main issues slowing down adoption of FMC services.

The first problem is IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS). Many large incumbent carriers are now trialing IMS technology and are faced with putting together an interim solution for offering dualmode services. To do this, many are using SIP-based technology to enable something called "voice call continuity" (VCC), which refers to a basic handoff between a cellular network and a WiFi network. The operators are considering an "enabling technology" -- just a stepping stone to more feature-rich IMS based services.

The second problem, at least in North America and Europe, is lack of consumer demand. In spite of some obvious benefits like cheaper phone bills and having one phone number and one address book for all networks, many consumers have no idea what FMC means or why it's good for them. The vendors represented here didn't seem well prepared to tell them.

"Consumers are waiting for you to tell us what we want," one audience member told Cisco's senior manager of the Linksys business, Tony Wan.

Wan says he thinks consumers will demand FMC applications that enable sharing multimedia content among cellphones, set-top boxes, and PCs. "When a WiFi phone comes into the home it should be a fully participating member of the home network," Wan says. "Content that is located in the home should be able to be shared with that device, whether that content is on a set-top box or a PC."

Wan believes consumers will ultimately demand FMC services because of their innovation, not because of their price. "Service providers need to move beyond the bundle," Wan says. "They need to move past services that are tied together but really don’t have much innovation."

Andre Moskal, CTO of NewStep Networks, says that consumers want FMC to enable voice services that are just simpler. Moskal says consumers want fewer phone numbers, one address book, and one central voicemail service. He says they want access to all these services from both their home and mobile phones.

With consumer wants unclear and IMS stuck in carrier labs, network operators focus on selling what they know. "The incumbents are just interesting in signing up new subscribers; that’s what they're all about," says LongBoard CTO Bill Leslie.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

wap545 12/5/2012 | 3:11:53 PM
re: Why Vendors Can't Sell FMC We need to differentiate between an Enterprise based FMC solution, a Metro Area WiFi (Mesh) and a Hotpsot or Home WLAN based FMC solution.
Enterprise:
There are a series of new products (back office servers/controllers)out their that allow an enterprise to allow their users to use a Dual Mode Phone in a WiFi mode while on the enterprises WLAN and handoff a voice call to the Cell Carrier when roaming outside the WiFi coverage area. This is accomplished via an on Premise COntroller/Server that is wired to both the WLAN and the CellCo (PSTN).

HotSPot or Home Network:
In concept this holds true to the HotSpot/Home Net if the owner has a controller collocated on premise to hand off between networks. There are some low cost devices from the likes of Linksys & Netgear offering these type solutions for the home. Have not seen any commercial grade devices that would address a HotSPot.


Metro Area Based Wireless Mesh Nets:
This is the really exciting part of FMC. Technically, we have been assured by the vendors addressing the Enterprise systems that the same Controller should be able to address a Metro Scale Mesh Network via a Centrally located Controller that has direct connections to the Cell & WLAN networks. As a matter of fact there is another provider called NetMotion that has a controller that will allow this level of VOice Hand off between Cell, CompanyWLAN and a Mesh Network.

Not sure why everyone is waiting for a God Box IMS solution that requires a customer to work directly with a Cell Carrier for a end to end solution when they can do much of it via existing or emerging products and not be tied to any paticular provider.

Jacomo
joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:11:53 PM
re: Why Vendors Can't Sell FMC "Not sure why everyone is waiting for a God Box IMS solution that requires a customer to work directly with a Cell Carrier for a end to end solution when they can do much of it via existing or emerging products and not be tied to any paticular provider."

Kind of answers your own question. The carriers want to keep control if they possibly can.

-- DJ
IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 3:11:52 PM
re: Why Vendors Can't Sell FMC Metro Area Based Wireless Mesh Nets:
This is the really exciting part of FMC. Technically, we have been assured by the vendors addressing the Enterprise systems that the same Controller should be able to address a Metro Scale Mesh Network via a Centrally located Controller that has direct connections to the Cell & WLAN networks


ItGÇÖs reassuring that vendors have assured the market that itGÇÖll work. :)

The challenge for mobile VOIP is that it needs to work as well as cellular and cost less. It is exciting, but probably still a few years out, at least.

I havenGÇÖt seen any devices that are anywhere near ready for this sort of application.
aashu 12/5/2012 | 3:11:51 PM
re: Why Vendors Can't Sell FMC I disagree with Andre's comment in the message that consumers will want one number, one VM box, etc.. Would I like to have the voicemails left on my home phone get mixed into the VMs that are on my business cell phone? Probably not.
The above is an assumption at best. I do agree with the part that if technology offers something that they did not have before, e.g. sharing pictures or media in a phone call when within a WLAN space, or viewing content within the home network while at home, then there is something new, and perhaps consumers may bite. But the problem with FMC is that the way it has been defined by the industry ends up equating it to VCC -- which I think is among the hardest of problems, lacking a clear business case for the mobile operator.

phillipwolfe 12/5/2012 | 3:11:24 PM
re: Why Vendors Can't Sell FMC please excuse all my spelling errors and grammar errors.
phillipwolfe 12/5/2012 | 3:11:24 PM
re: Why Vendors Can't Sell FMC Jacomo is correct in how we define the markets. I "sell" to the utility enterprise marketspace and there is all kinds of activity in "fixed mobile convergence" and "mobilizing the workforce" on hybrid networks - private radio, commercial carriers, 802.11 WiFi, and IP. in my spade, what's happening is that Telcom/Radio Managers have to where an IP/IT hat, and the IP/IT Maanger has to where the Telcom/Radio hat. And some are full Microsoft Exchange 2003 shops, others are Cisco shops with Microsoft. In the meantime their workers are begging for seamless mobile service at the "edge". so what happens is you have a semi-ruggidized laptop in a truck, the mobile worker does his inspection, then goes to a hotspot to download his information, or uses the commericial carrier, or uses the private skinny band radio network. At the same time the IT/IP manager also has to consider Mobile IP V6 protocol or does he simply use Terminal Services to leverage his MS Exchange 2003 server platform? Well its an ROI thing and a saving time thing. But also a session persistance thing because the mobile worker at the edge wants to do his job without having to re-authenticate everytime he moves from one network to another. THe Mobile IP protocol RFC XXXX was supposed to satisfy this requirement. And using multinet server mobile platforms allows you to do this...but in someway so does a simple aircard in your laptop or handheld device. Depends on the security requirments of the organization in question. I think it is all very interesting and exciting. P.Wolfe
Star Man 12/5/2012 | 3:11:17 PM
re: Why Vendors Can't Sell FMC --The challenge for mobile VOIP is that it needs to work as well as cellular and cost less. It is exciting, but probably still a few years out, at least.

--I havenGÇÖt seen any devices that are anywhere near ready for this sort of application.

The problem for mobile VOIP vendors is they all are basically trying to develop businesses in the little cracks of the carrier companies. Such a business model is doomed.

Carriers own handset distribution worldwide and they will not allow handset vendors to provide VOIP features until they say it is OK.

Additionally Carriers worldwide are deploying DPI QoS; they will not allow their networks to be cannibalized by third party VOIP vendors.

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