Francois Mazoudier argues that fixed-mobile convergence is not the be all and end all in the evolution of telecoms
The term Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) has captured the minds of businesses across the telecoms industry, with many players believing that its growing presence is causing a communications revolution. To date, the term has attracted a great deal of attention across the world, with anybody who is anybody in the telecoms space talking about FMC. However, in reality, is FMC all just ‘hype' and, if so, what are the alternative communications solutions out there?
By converging fixed and mobile communication, FMC provides a synergistic combination of technologies, enabling all-in-one communication systems that allow voice to switch between networks on an ad-hoc basis using a single mobile device. However, as these solutions start to impact the telecommunications ecosystem, do FMC players really believe it is the best answer for businesses that are looking to adopt the latest communications models? Or are the telecoms vendors and operators making a last ditch attempt to breathe life back into their ever-decreasing profit margins by stamping a larger footprint into the office environment in the name of FMC?
Until now, mobility was designed as an extension to this office-based hardware telephony system, perceived as a luxury that was too expensive to handle all business calls. With the universal adoption of mobile phones, it is now the fixed-to-mobile element that is complex and expensive, with calls to mobile phones the main form of voice communication over traditional fixed-line handsets. So why not go all mobile?
In today's busy offices the majority of workers still have to juggle a desk-based phone and mobile device, a situation that is not only inconvenient but also costly for businesses that support and cover the costs of both phones. As mobility increases, and more staff work outside the traditional office environment, employees are forced to give out and use multiple phone numbers. As FMC gives users a single dual handset that can be used anywhere at anytime it seems like the perfect solution to this issue. However, away from the hype, integrating mobile and fixed-line networks is a complex matter and there is a far simpler single handset solution already on the market - the mobile phone itself!
It does not have to be expensive to introduce an all mobile telephony solution into a business environment, all the necessary hardware is already supplied and paid for as employees' already have mobile devices - no other hardware is needed. Calls made to the office number are handled exactly as they would on an ordinary telephone system, directed to the user's mobile phone over a GSM network of choice, rather than over a complicated office fixed-line telephony network to a desk-based phone. This makes them reliable and cost effective, particularly compared to the FMC solution.
True mobility enables employees to be contacted on just one number whether they are in the office or not. All mobile solutions enable this unprecedented access without compromising on the features users require from their desk phone. This new level of access allows business workers to stay in contact with colleagues and customers with ease; they never miss an important call again.
The simple-to-use system can be provisioned and activated instantly via the web and takes ten minutes to set up. Put bluntly, an all mobile solution eradicates all the complexity of a fixed-line, and therefore an FMC solution, as there is no need for hardware, techies, long-term contracts and expensive upgrades. Handover between fixed and mobile is inherent - because it is all mobile.
All mobile phone solutions have the potential to dismiss the FMC ‘hype' in the same way that network-enabled voicemail ended the office hardware business when it was launched back in the 90's. Back then each office had a tape recorder in the reception and this hardware eventually became superseded by network-enabled voicemail. Today there is an all mobile system that can supersede the office PBX, turning the business telephony industry (selling mostly hardware) into a service industry.
In addition, an all mobile system solves the problems found by all companies today when buying/changing phone systems: complexity, high upfront costs, hidden ongoing costs, high dependency on technical specialists, costly ongoing upgrades and, most importantly, expensive monthly bills as their employees are increasingly mobile and incoming calls are redirected to them at full mobile rates.
Despite the fact that FMC has existed as a concept for over ten years, its penetration is likely to be as little as 8.8 per cent of the total business subscriber base by 2012 (according to Informa) and it remains to be seen if businesses will want to replace existing infrastructure, when you look behind the complex scenes of FMC. It is far easier to achieve mobility without such high level infrastructure investment.
I am not saying that FMC won't take off on a large scale or even change the way we communicate. It probably will, but by using an all mobile phone solution we can change the very nature of office communication without the need for the fixed-line.
FMC is really about the move to mobile where everyone's phone is wireless. Therefore let's stop talking about FMC and instead talk about accelerating such a move.
Francois Mazoudier is CEO at GoHello