FMC Looks to the Future

Carl Weinschenk

There is a significant pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for service providers and vendors if fixed mobile convergence (FMC) -- as the name implies, the integration of the wired and wireless networks -- overcomes the inertia that has marked it to date. The gains are twofold: FMC makes new and existing applications flow more fluidly and reduces costs by eliminating the need for duplicate architectures.


It may be FMC's time -- again. Telephony provides a preview of the NXTComm08 conference later this month in Las Vegas. The piece says FMC may be unique in that it has gone through the hype and disappointment phase more than once. The piece suggests that there may be real cause for optimism at this point. The writer points to Vodafone Italia's release of the Station, a home switch/router from Huawei Technologies that uses ADSL2+ to transport Wi-Fi or Ethernet throughout the home. The story points out that T-Mobile is offering a comparable service in Dallas and Seattle.


That optimism -- albeit cautious optimism -- is echoed in a report released last month by Strategy Analytics. The firm said the enterprise FMC market will grow to more than $50 billion by 2012. The report says that one form of FMC -- unlicensed multimedia access (UMA) will be the winner in the short term, while Session Initiation Protocol-based (SIP) service will grow in the longer term.


This back-to-basics TechRepublic piece on FMC offers several benefits. One is making the fact clear that different vendors have different definitions for the term. Some apply it to voice, some to data and some to mixed applications. This alone is an important realization, since potential customers must have a firm grasp of the basics before talking to vendors. The second valuable element of the story is a five-bullet point list of the potential advantages: centralized management, greater bandwidth efficiency, lower total cost, centralized service and support, and streamlined billing. The writer mentions five of the main players in the sector: Nortel, Cisco, Motorola, Sprint Nextel and AT&T, only scratching the surface of the many firms in the sector.


A bookend to the Strategy Analytics piece -- this one looking at the consumer side of the equation -- was released last month by ABI Research. The firm says that spending on FMC equipment will reach $850 million by 2013, divided between FMC platforms and 4G base stations and gateways. The main advantage in this environment is its ability to reduce the strain on cellular networks facing an increasing load of voice and data traffic. The piece also points to the parallel growth of femtocells and 4G networking.


Indeed, a number of technologies and platforms, including 4G networking, femtocells, SIP, UMA, FMC, the IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) and others -- often are presented as different entities. They are, of course. But they must fit together at some level. How they ultimately do this is a complex subject that clearly will require serious thinking during the next few years.

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