There is good news and bad about the progress being made in the world of fixed mobile convergence (FMC).
The sunny side of the equation for proponents is that the case for FMC seems to be moving more central to the mission of IT and telecommunications departments as the amount and cost of transporting data increases. Research from ABI Research and Frost & Sullivan quantifies the good news. IT departments and planners recognize that FMC offers enterprises-which have emerged as the main customers for these platforms-cost savings, spiffy applications and greater flexibility.
The bad news for FMC advocates is that the category is still mired in the same level of confusion that seems to have slowed its evolution. Writes Tara Seals in VON:
FMC vendors have been plagued by questions of definition. Basic PBX-to-mobile extensions dominated global installed base and shipment numbers in 2008. But FMC can also apply to desktop applications accessed via mobile handsets, remote access to corporate data applications from multiple device types, leveraging fixed-line broadband to improve mobile device access, and any combination of the above.
Another way of putting it is that FMC is still a riddle to many users. This clearly is a marketing failure. Any discussion of mixing and matching landline, cellular and wireless (i.e., Wi-Fi) connections is fraught with a blizzard of acronyms, confusing parallel paths to achieving what is essentially the same goal, and worthwhile -- but still confusing -- value-added applications. Marketing folks make big bucks -- and should have been more strongly defining what FMC was and what it could do.
That doesn't mean that times aren't good. Frost & Sullivan also sees growth in the FMC segment. The firm says that, worldwide, 2.67 million handsets have activated FMC functionality, which represents year-over-year growth of 230 percent. There are various types of FMC driving this growth. They include PBX-to-mobile extensions, FMC clients, dual-mode approaches, mobile unified communications, unlicensed mobile access (UMA), carrier FMC, enterprise FMC and others, the story says.
ABI also is bullish. Last week, the firm said that FMC voice connections for business users will rise from 6.3 million this year to more than 27 million in 2014. These estimates include connections made using Wi-Fi and cellular picocells and femtocells.
Announcements continue to be made. Earlier this summer, vendor Agito Networks said it will support the BlackBerry operating system. This was something of a big deal in FMC circles because the proprietary nature of Research in Motion's infrastructure made this difficult. At the end of July, systems integrator Damovo and Agito said that they would work together. The agreement, which apparently covers the UK, will see Damovo integrate Agito's RoamAnywhere Mobility Router into its FMC platform. While the release points out the savings on connectivity, it emphasizes the other efficiencies the companies claim will be gained by knitting together the wired enterprise, wireless local-area network (WLAN) and cellular networks.
FMC clearly is making progress. Perhaps it would make even more if the marketing department got into the act and more clearly defined the permutations of the technology and its benefits so that the big picture is more easily understood by potential customers.