by October 8, 2010 0 comments

The backbone of any business is right communication happening at the right time effortlessly. The way organizations are working is changing and many of the employees are no longer confined to the office boundaries, or dependent on wired connections. Most of the time they are on the move and happen to miss phone calls being made to their PBX extension in office. It’s cellphone that’s being carried everywhere with enterprise PBX left untapped. Even for calling up your colleague who sits on the same floor, it’s a cell phone call that you make instead of picking up your desk phone. Where does that leave the PBX then, with its utilization going down considerably?
That’s where new technologies are being introduced to leverage the best of both worlds-wired and wireless. Called FMC, or fixed mobile convergence, there are a host of technologies that can integrate your PBX with the mobile communication world.

Fixed Mobile Convergence
FMC is a concept that refers to convergence of fixed-line and mobile wireless networks. Here ‘fixed’ can also mean a wireless extension to a broadband access network, like Wi-Fi access points in settings such as a home network, IP network in an organization and other hot spot access points like at the airport, etc and ‘mobile’ refers to the cellular networks.

Depending on a user’s location, calls coming on mobile phones could be routed over either a broadband network or to the mobile network according to signal strength. Users would not be aware when the terminal switches between fixed and mobile modes. It would lead to selection of networks automatically for incoming and outgoing calls and would allow handover between different networks and also an integrated billing service.

Some FMC solutions also talk about enabling the movement of an active call from an enterprise’s deskphone to a smartphone and vice versa. For example, Verizon offers something known as the PBX Mobile Extension, which gives mobile employees a single number across multiple devices, be it their cell phone, BlackBerry, home phone, WiFi device, etc. It’s composed of a mobility app that extends the identity and functionality of a traditional PBX desk phone to any device. It leads to a single phone number, single voicemail and the enterprise caller ID being extended on outbound and inbound calls.It
also enables the user to switch a call in progress between different devices and networks without disconnecting and re-establishing the call. That is, the user can move the PBX desk phone calls to cell phones and move cell phone calls to WiFi or SIP phones. It enables automatic reconnect to a call when a Wi-Fi or cell signal is lost. The solution also provides the mobile worker with rich features like single number, unified voicemail, call park, transfer etc

A dual mode phone would be required for Fixed mobile convergence, which includes a standard cellular radio (GSM, CDMA, W-CDMA) and an IEEE 802.11 (WiFi) radio for voice and data communication. Such a handset would enable seamless roaming between Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

The immediate benefits to enterprises would be a reduction in cell phone bills with cheaper incoming and outgoing calls happening over the enterprise’s Wi-Fi network. There would be better coverage in-building and integration of the organization’s applications with mobile communications would become easier. The costs would be significantly brought down by grouping up multiple services through the single phone, single number, and single bill feature.

Cellular FMC
With the roll-out of 3G, another alternative which is being explored is achieving FMC over 3G mobile networks, which would do away with the need to have a dual mode handset. This is being referred to as cellular FMC and is being tested across the globe.
Some vendors like OnRelay are already providing a cellular fixed mobile convergence solution, comprising of a Mobile PBX software (MBX), which enables replacing desk phones with mobile phones and works over any public cellular network but does not require VoWiFi infrastructure or dual mode phones.

The software’s architecture works over any public mobile network, providing customers with a feature-rich managed FMC service, whichever mobile network they use, wherever they are in the world. MBX app is like a native phone app that does not affect other phone apps and enables users to manage both business and personal calls from the same device. They can change their user profiles with one click and can choose to place calls either from their business or personal number. Here the business call displays actual corporate number while a personal call is a GSM call that displays the GSM number and is not logged by the corporate phone system. This allows separate billing of personal and business calls.

This would lead to significant cost savings by eliminating cell phone to cell phone costs within the enterprise and would also allow employees outside the organization to access the corporate PBX and utilize the company’s long distance calling plans rather than using a mobile network and paying hefty bills for the long distance plans.

FMC in India
In India fixed and mobile networks are mostly operating as distinct silos and though there are initiatives being taken to converge the two together, FMC is still in a nascent stage.

Here the concept of Next Generation Network (NGN) becomes significant. NGN refers to shifting to higher network speeds using broadband and the migration from Public switched telephone network (PSTN) to an IP-network and integration of services on a single network.
TRAI estimates that 70% of the mobile calls are originated/terminated within the buildings. It says that if NGN is implemented in an end-to-end network i.e. in access as well as core, then these in- building mobile calls could be completed on the fixed network itself. This would result in substantial savings of scarce resources like spectrum and network costs resulting into optimum utilization of resources.
But NGNs are in early stages and are evolving with regulators around the world thinking on formulating regulations to make NGN implementation feasible. In India, there seems to be some migration to NGN technologies, but full transition to NGN may take many more years. It might take time before FMC becomes a reality but it is definitely going to be a future trend that is set to change the way enterprises communicate and collaborate.

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