The abandonment of landline phones in favor of cellular has been a significant trend in the consumer sector for a few years. The trend is expanding more fully into the enterprise. IT Pro reports that Research in Motion (RIM) thinks its Mobile Voice System (MVS) is a fit substitute for desktop phones, especially for workers who spend little time at their desks. The story provides an overview of what RIM may be thinking about, but says the firm did not discuss details. RIM did say, however, that it is in discussion with European mobile operators for services based on the use of BlackBerries as the sole phone for enterprises.
The significance of this move is not lost on bMighty's Eric Krapf. He links to the IT Pro piece. His emphasis isn't on the financial savings that would follow if such an approach becomes widespread. Instead, he points to comments in the story about the regulatory and legal implications of routing all calls through the enterprise network. Currently, cell and smartphones use the public network. Calls, therefore, aren't logged. That would change in the kind of approach RIM is suggesting. Likewise, this approach would be a step forward for presence and unified communications. Currently, a person's status on their cell phone can't be tracked by UC's presence function. That, too, would change if users' cellular service became integrated in the enterprise platform.
A big enabler of the move to cell-only service, sometimes called fixed-mobile replacement, is that networks are better able to support the change. The coming of WiMax and, slightly later, Long Term Evolution (LTE), will extend the trend. This Wi-Fi Network News piece discusses the growing commercialization of femtocells, a topic . Femtocells and VoIP over Wi-Fi, two parallel branches stemming off telecommunications' family tree, provide better coverage in homes and therefore make it more feasible to abandon landlines. Writing about femtos, Glenn Fleishman says:
In fact, such customers are then more likely to convert the rest of their family to the same carrier, if they were holding out, to gain the benefits of family plan discounts, and potentially cut off their landline.
In the final analysis, the biggest difference in the abandonment of landlines between consumers and enterprises is timing. Of course, an enterprise system, especially for a big business, must be more robust and have more bells and whistles. Thus, the development cycle is longer. Another timing factor is that most of the folks who will do this most adeptly and willingly are young. As they enter the work force, they are more likely to be at home without a desktop than an older worker.
It may be a bit frightening, but the workers of tomorrow are sleeping and doing a lot of other things in college dorms today. TriCities.com reports that some college dorms are completely devoid of landline phones. The story looks a recent study from The College of William and Mary and an older one from East Tennessee State Unversity that had divergent views on the status of landlines in dorms. The newer study suggested that more students rely on cells than landlines, while the older one found that landlines were still ascendant. Clearly, kids are more comfortable with cell phones and the long-term trend certainly is toward complete mobility.
There is a hidden issue that companies need to consider: Which approach, landlines or cells, is greener? Both present problems. RiverWired says that landlines use more energy and are difficult to recycle. Cells, on the other hand, use ecology-challenged batteries, have faster turnover and get lost more easily. The writer reasons that both have problems and concludes that since nobody is going to give up their cell in favor of a landline, the best move is to reduce half the economic impact by ditching the landline.
The bottom line is that more people will eschew there landline for mobile phones-smart and otherwise-as time goes on. Look for mobile carriers to begin pushing harder as more robust networks roll out and the economy takes an increasing toll on revenues.