Enterprise Communications


Next-generation Fixed-to-mobile Convergence Solutions - Frost & Sullivan Analysts Share Their Vision

by Francisco Rizzo 26 Jan 2012
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Within the ICT team at Frost & Sullivan we often like to debate issues that pertain to the different markets we cover. It’s always good to get someone else’s perspective – especially if that person covers a market that has some relation to your field of expertise. This week the topic was fixed-to-mobile convergence (FMC), more specifically next-generation FMC solutions.

What began as a discussion on next-generation features and capabilities, quickly turned into a reflection on the importance of single-number reach – today and in a hypothetical mobile-only world. It started with a roadmap, and then a question: what do you think?

The first stage belongs to the basic PBX to mobile extensions, which still are the most popular types of FMC/Mobile UC clients utilized today. The second stage are what we call Advanced FMC clients, and the emergence of middle wares that allows for additional FMC/Mobile UC functionality, including presence, IM, audio conferencing, unified messaging, and dual-mode voice call handoff. Today, however, we are starting to witness a third wave of next-generation FMC/Mobile UC clients, which include video capabilities and social and collaborative tools. Basically, while advanced FMC solutions mostly involved "data-centric" types of communications, next-generation FMC client will be more video-centric. These next-generation mobile UC clients could also have additional characteristics such as optimization for tablets, richer thin or Web-based user interfaces, and integration with cloud-based environments, among others.

Alaa Saayed, Senior Industry Analyst and ICT Team Leader, Frost & Sullivan

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I agree with the progression of FMC shown in the chart.

It would be interesting to get a timeline of Next-gen FMC that includes advanced mobile video capabilities. Current mobile extensions (both for video and web collaboration) offer limited capabilities and several of them are not truly optimized for mobile devices.

 Roopam Jain,Industry Director – Conferencing and Collaboration, Frost & Sullivan

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In your various stages you start with "Single Number Reach" across the board. I believe "Single Number Reach" refers to the following scenario: I have one phone number and when someone calls it my office desk phone, my mobile phone, my laptop softphone, and my home office phone all ring simultaneously. This is an important feature today. I would argue that going forward, executives in particular, and many professionals will only have a mobile phone and they will no longer have a desktop phone and/or a traditional landline at their home office. I would follow that argument, that if you only have a mobile phone, you don't need single number reach because you only really have one device anyway. I guess that executives will likely still have a mobile phone, and a tablet. They will also have a laptop, but I'm not sure that they will run a softphone on it. What's the point if your mobile device can make calls over the same WiFi network as the laptop and the tablet has a big enough screen for video con?

So long story short. Does "Single Number Reach" still have a place in your third or potentially 4th evolution?

Rufus Connell, Vice President, Frost & Sullivan

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I think of single-number reach as being important even in the world of mobile only, because any given user would still have two numbers (at least in theory): a cell number, given to him by the cellular provider, and an "office number," which is just a PBX extension (i.e. it might not ever ring to an actual phone). So it would seem important going forward.

Also, single-number reach does not have to mean simultaneous ring; it can mean "ring on the device I am using," which means that people can leverage it to take business calls on their home phones, whether those are landlines or personal cells.

Melanie Turek, VP Research Enterprise, Communications & Collaboration

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Re: single number reach, "world" is the key word. Business users on international travel may find it much more cost effective to route calls to whatever location they are working from. Least cost routing is a key component of single number reach.

Since no one wants to carry two phones, there's also the concept of identities. That means having a business persona and a personal persona from a single device. The device knows which identity to convey to far end-parties (i.e. which number is displayed to your spouse or customers when dialing them) and intelligently routes inbound calls per the current identity as well.

Also, IMO dual mode is/was best suited to gain traction in consumer space first. People are ditching their land lines at home and everyone is getting smart phones. This is a good example of vendor driven tech that should have progressed naturally via consumerization of IT.

Robert Arnold, Senior Industry Analyst, Frost & Sullivan

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Hey Rob,

Just an interesting aside. I was in India recently for 2 weeks. I was able to live my business life via my smartphone only on WiFi. There were definitely a couple of occasions where I wished I had data access when I couldn't get a WiFi connection, but I certainly wasn't handicapped.

Rufus Connell, Vice President, Frost & Sullivan

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Some quick comments on each one of your comments:

Roopam – Video capabilities on mobile phones is an interesting topic – some consider it useless while others think it’s going to be a huge leap forward in collaboration. No matter what side of the line you stand, the reality is that every vendor is going to offer it on the grounds that “if I don’t my competitor will”.

Rufus – I agree with the idea that everyone will eventually just have one device that serves as their mobile/work/home phone. It’s hard to say when (fixed-phone vendors are going to put up a fight), but stats seem to point out that we are moving in that direction. In a report presented to the FCC by the Technology Advisory Council (TAC), they pointed out - citing a study done by the National Center for Health Statistics - that as of May 2010, 23% of respondents in a study lived in a mobile-only household

Melanie/Rob – I agree with your explanation on why single-number reach is still valid. I personally wouldn’t want my home number to be the same as my work number. Keeping in line with what Rufus said about having only one device, you could argue “if you have one device then why does it matter if your home and work number are the same – the end result is the same”. I disagree. I think it’s important to set boundaries, and this is why FMC solutions are so important. With today’s solutions you can set restrictions with regards to who can call you based on your location and time of day. So if I get home from the office I can program my cellphone to not receive business calls after 6pm. Cool feature.

Francisco Rizzo, Research Analyst, Frost & Sullivan

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At Frost & Sullivan we regard mobility to be the most significant communications trend today in both the enterprise and consumer space. Whether you agree or not with the vision of a mobile-only world where fixed phones no longer exists, what’s undeniable is that the lines between professional and personal life are being blurred. FMC solutions are a huge leap forward in terms of optimizing communications and collaboration, and they are also necessary – through single-number reach features - in helping set boundaries between work and what happens after “9 to 5”.

What do you think?

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