They Don't Know it, But Users Are Driving FMC

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Berg Insight, an analyst group based in Sweden, has released two reports in recent days that deal with an interrelated theme. Synopses of both can be found here.


The latter report -- which came out June 1 -- suggests that Web 2.0 is marrying the fixed and mobile Internet into a single entity. The report offers advice on how various players should approach this emerging consolidated reality. On May 24, Berg said that global shipments of smart phones will reach 113 million units this year. This growth curve dovetails nicely with the idea that the emphasis is moving to higher functioning mobile devices.


That the mobile Internet is becoming more popular is not a newsflash, of course. One of the overarching themes of the past couple of years is fixed mobile convergence (FMC). It's easy, however, to get mired in the details of the plumbing of such converged networks. At certain points, it's important to step back and consider how significant the changes will be to users.


If we didn't dislike the phrase so much, we would call it a paradigm shift. Wired and wireless networks used to exist in their own domains with marginal overlap. Folks used their wired phones and PCs in the office and their cell phones and laptops on the road. While the two physically distinct networks and categories of client devices will continue to exist, there will be increasingly less distinction on how they are used. Users will grow to see little or no distinction between what they can do with either.


Automatic syncing and agile switching between networks will be so seamless and applications so customized for any form factor that the qualitative differences between the two networks will effectively disappear. The knitting together of the two networks will be furthered by unified communications, which will indiscriminately move between wired and wireless devices to find the intended recipient of a message and enable advanced forms of collaboration.


Vendors and carriers understand this and, as evidenced by the recent Interop, are positioning themselves for this unified future. Customers -- residential or business -- are king, and if they want seamless mobile/fixed services, that's precisely what they will get. This fundamental change is suggested by this Xchange magazine quote from Jean-Pierre Aubertine, an analyst at research firm Visiongain:

While five or six years ago everyone spun off their wireless arms, now we're seeing the opposite happen because it's apparent one cannot live without the other.

The increasingly irrelevance of the differences between wired and wireless networks from the users' perspective also is evident in the growth of mobile substitution, in which users completely abandon the wireline network. This is particularly striking simply because the wired services are still far superior to cellular. If a significant number of people are leaving under those conditions, imagine how many will vote with their checkbooks once femtocells and other technologies equalize the quality between the two.


The bottom line is that this is all good. Indeed, if a master planner had sat down a decade ago and suggested how the Internet and modern telecommunications would best evolve, he or she would likely have come up with something like what we are beginning to see today.