Vo-Fi to FMC

Vo-Fi to FMC

Roger Hockaday, Director
Roger Hockaday, Director of Marketing, Aruba Networks, EMEA

It’s easy to understand the interest in Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC); multinational companies can make significant financial savings by ensuring their employees don’t use ‘expensive’ cellular minutes on international calls, and employees can (to a large extent) use their personal choice of mobile phone to make calls from within the office just as if it were an office phone. In other words FMC is at a convergence of two key drivers – business efficiency and personal preference.

But FMC offers more than just day to day cost savings to an organisation: It also allows companies to better utilise existing technology – their IP-PBX – and get greater value from a technology they are starting to deploy widely – the wireless LAN (WLAN).

Although still an immature technology, FMC is evolving rapidly: Cellular phones are equipped with Wi-Fi as a matter of course, and the phone’s ability to support voice over WLANs is improving rapidly. The majority of PBX installed today are either IP, or IP capable, and the ability of WLANs to support the transition from cellular network to wireless LAN is proven in testing. Consequently, from 2009/2010, many large organisations will start trialing solutions. This presents an opportunity both for IT departments to accelerate the move to Unified Communications, and for system integrators to offer more value as the change occurs.

Organisations looking to ‘unify their communications’ with an FMC solution, are

faced with two basic choices: Outsource their telecommunications to a Service Provider who will provide a hosted FMC solution, or build a solution in-house, using their existing IP-PBX and wireless network, relying upon their in-house IT department and the skills of their chosen IT partner.


Outsourcing to a Service Provider

Service providers clearly have the experience and capabilities to offer outsourced FMC solutions. They build networks that scale to (hundreds of ) millions of subscribers, and have decades of experience in mobility; they have a vision to extend the reach and feature set of their cellular offering to all forms of network access, developing solutions that offer more value to business – and for them that means hosted – or outsourced – FMC solutions for the business community.

Some organisations – particularly smaller and medium sized companies – will welcome hosted FMC solutions as a means to deliver seamless communications to their workforce without having to develop or acquire the inhouse skills. However, for others, total reliance upon a third party for the most basic of communication services will be unacceptable. Moving to an outsourced solution will mean that a company’s existing IP-PBX technology will most likely be rendered obsolete, and significant technical issues with the internal network will have to be overcome. Indeed it is likely that FMC’s reliance on a high quality WLAN infrastructure will require the wholesale adoption of the data network by the service provider, simply to offer the requisite SLAs. Consequently, companies will likely lose control of their voice and data networks when adopting an outsourced solution.


In House FMC solutions

IP-PBX based solutions will inherently be more feature rich than a service based around cellular technology. The intent of PBX vendors is to enable the user to access the rich feature-set of PBX solutions whether they are in Wi-Fi or cellular coverage. An in-house FMC solution does not depend on the cooperation of the cellular provider, and uses the PBX as the anchor point for all voice communication. Using standardised signaling combined with interoperable APIs, the PBX and WLAN become the system elements that decide whether a call should be routed internally over the Wi-Fi network or externally over the cellular network. The advantage of this approach to FMC is that it does not rely upon a third party to manage internal communications, but of course it does require a level of skill within the IT / telecommunication group to build and manage the solution, and is an excellent opportunity for systems integrators to offer additional value.

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