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Mind Share
July 2004

Marc Robins

Bridging the Wireline/Wireless Divide


It seems as if the momentum behind wireless communications technology just keeps building � from plain old voice communications to new broadband data schemes � and for good reason. We have become a truly mobile society, constantly on the move both at work and during our leisure hours, and wireless communications technology keeps us connected to each other and the information we rely on so heavily.


In a growing number of cases, the cell phone has become the primary, preferred method of voice communications at work, while a dusty wired PBX phone set is relegated to paperweight status. Several friends of mine have ditched their local wireline home phone service altogether, relying instead on cell phones and new broadband VoIP services as backup. Likewise for data, WiFi is untethering users from restrictive cabled networks, giving them unmatched flexibility and convenience.

While most of us haven�t taken the extreme step of disconnecting completely from the PSTN and wireline services, there is a growing divide between the wireline and wireless realms that at best causes inconvenience and frustration, and at worst results in less productivity, efficiency, and ultimately, lost business. Think about the incompatible command structures � with voice messaging for example � on cell phones and office phone systems. Think about the important calls that went to your desk set rather than your cell phone, delaying action. Think about the conference call you are on that is running way overtime, chaining you to a location and causing you to miss an important meeting on the other side of town, or a plane, or your son�s soccer game.

Luckily, such conditions spell opportunity for many communications systems vendors and service providers, and solutions for us all. As network infrastructures and communications devices �go IP,� the convergence of previously incompatible networks and network elements becomes possible. Indeed, a number of companies, including Sprint and Avaya, are developing innovative wireline/wireless integrated services and solutions that promise to bridge wireless and wireline communications infrastructures to create a whole new class of applications and give users new freedom and more control of their communications.

One application under development involves the use of a new breed of multi-mode cell phone from companies such as Motorola that support not only traditional wireless standards (CDMA, TDMA, GSM) but that also support WiFi telephony. With such a phone clipped to your belt, you will be able to enter your WiFi-telephony equipped office building or campus environment and be automatically registered with your company�s phone system. The mobile phone will then in essence double as your business extension, and can provide you with wireless mobility with near full desk phone functionality, a common dialing plan and feature codes, and even unified messaging with a common user interface.

Sprint is trialing a similar type of application the company calls the ICN or �Integrated Campus Network�. In Sprint�s ICN solution, the company creates a private CDMA or WiFi network on a corporate campus by dedicating Sprint-licensed spectrum along with infrastructure to enhance in-building coverage and guarantee available coverage. Sprint�s secure end-to-end design includes VPN backhaul of all telecommunications traffic, and employs dual mode mobile phones that deliver seamless handoff between the WiFi wireless network and CDMA cellular network. Such a system has the potential to replace or compliment a traditional PBX installation, and benefits users by providing a single handset device for both �on-campus� and �off-campus� access, the ability to access the full list of PBX features while on either platform, a single voice mail system, and increased accessibility and productivity.

Other possible applications from wireline/wireless integration include Outlook integration, whereby a mobile phone user can look up a number in the corporate directory from a mobile device such as a PDA or Smartphone and dial it by clicking on the employee name. Other features can include the ability to separate personal from business communications: through a special portal, a user will be able to establish which callers are forwarded to his PCS phone, and which ones are routed to voice mail.

Another application I�ve heard that is under development lets you enter your office while you�re engaged in a mobile phone or WiFi-enabled PDA conversation, and seamlessly transfer the active call to your desk phone without interrupting the conversation. Likewise, the reverse will also be possible � transferring a call from your wired desk phone to your mobile phone/PDA at will. Such an application will be a huge boon to mobile workers who crave such flexibility.

Marc Robins has been involved in the telecommunications industry as a researcher and analyst, author and publisher, and marketing executive and consultant for more than 23 years. Marc recently served as Vice President of Publications and Trade Shows and Group Editorial Director at TMC. Recently, Marc launched a new consulting and marketing services company offering an array of professional services to the IP telephony industry, and he is also publishing a number of new information resources for prospective buyers of the technology. Contact Marc at 718-548-7245 or email [email protected].

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