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Arthur M. Rosenberg

[April 8, 2005]

Wireless Mobility and the "Mass" Business Communications Market

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified View


Converging business communications is obviously more than cheaper VoIP phone calls and lower TCOs as enterprise organizations plan their IP telephony migrations based on replacing legacy PBX and contact center ACD boxes with software. The convergence of telephony (which controls voice contacts) and data networking, multi-modal messaging, visual and speech interfaces, and wired and wireless devices is creating an increasing need for presence, availability, and modality management to control the complexities of flexible contact accessibility.

Before the advent of cell phones and Internet email, person-to-person real-time business communications activity was clearly separated from personal communications by virtue of the phone number and the location of the telephone device. (However, we all know that business phones were used for incoming as well as outbound personal calls.) In the "residence" market, SOHO and remote home workers had their own business phones installed by their local service providers, but not as part of an enterprise network. Clearly, VoIP services and IP-based messaging is changing all of that, enabling distributed people and locations to cost-effectively share data and communicate as if they were all in one location.

Although IP networking, VoIP and IP telephony are making the biggest impact on communication infrastructures and costs, wireless "mobility" is having the more disruptive impact on end users and how they communicate, particularly in the domain of business activities. When it comes to the need for the conveniences of communication convergence, alias "unified messaging," unified communications," etc., our market research has confirmed that mobile users who have time-sensitive responsibilities, are the key beneficiaries for such new communication functionality.

The Many Faces of Business Communications "Mobility"

When you read about mobility in the enterprise environment, you will see references to a variety of ways that enterprise users are considered as being less accessible than when at their desk. Some similarities exist between on-the-go wireless mobility and simply being accessible at more than one location. These situations include:

  • Roaming the office
  • Roaming the campus
  • Visiting other offices
  • Visiting customers
  • Driving a car
  • Traveling - planes, trains, etc.
  • Staying in a hotel
  • Telecommuting from home

The biggest concern about user mobility is for contact initiators to easily and efficiently make contact with the recipient, regardless of the recipient's location. "One number" telephone services are designed to do just that by providing a single contact number that can dynamically connect the caller to the recipient. With the convergence of IP telephony and IP messaging technologies, the flexibility of person-to-person communications can be expanded beyond voice connections to multi-modal contacts. This direction is being reinforced by the entry of various network service providers into "triple-play" and "quadruple-play" communication offerings, such as AOL's announcement of its entry into the VoIP and associated voicemail services market.

With IP telephony, phone numbers become disassociated from physical locations and associated with wired or wireless devices. Wherever a device connects with the network, the number is activated. In effect, just as with cell phones, the VoIP phone number is portable and therefore "mobile."

In the context of an enterprise organization, premise-based business numbers have typically been controlled by the enterprise through their PBX and wired station set extensions. With wireless mobility, handheld devices are no longer as manageable as wired desktops (including IP phones and PC softphones) and off-premise enterprise usage support for those devices becomes questionable and definitely limited.

Enterprise "Seamless Mobility" - Wi-Fi and Cellular Convergence

A new dividing line for enterprise communication responsibility is now being directed at on-premise mobility, exploiting Voice over Wireless LANs, or Wi-Fi connectivity. It is estimated that 30-40% of missed incoming business calls take place when the employee is in the office but just not at their desk. There are also statistics showing that a large percentage of cell phone traffic takes place on premise and on-campus, incurring WAN service costs that can be bypassed with WLAN connections. Both of these factors point to exploiting local wireless connectivity to achieve both greater personal accessibility and lower costs.

One of the first enterprise offerings has come from a consortium of Motorola, Avaya, and Proxim, with their standards-based"Seamless Mobility" solution that enables a single Motorola dual-mode phone to be used as a business extension number for both on-campus Voice over Wi-Fi connections, as well as for cellular connections when off-campus or where Wi-Fi access doesn't work. "Seamless" switching between the two types of network connections is determined by Proxim's WLAN gateway that enables an Avaya IP-PBX(Avaya's Communication Manager) and Motorola's Wireless Services Manager to change the call connection to Wi-Fi whenever the signal is strong enough.

Fixed-Mobile Convergence

Just announced last month at CeBIT was the first convergence of cellular phones with enterprise IP-PBX extension phones, based on Avaya-supplied client software for Nokia's Series 60 Platform and Symbian OS. This turns business office numbers into controllable mobile numbers for user handheld devices, while still enabling the same devices to be used for personal, non-business contacts through the service provider's direct device number. In addition to mobile accessibility, Avaya Extension to Cellular also provides mobile access to all the IP-based business communication capabilities available at the desktop, including call management and consolidated multi-modal message management functions.

This development also addresses one of the areas of communications convergence that was not well defined until now, i.e., the convergence between carrier services and enterprise CPE responsibilities. In particular, I have always questioned the enterprise responsibility for supporting handheld devices for their users. Now there is an obvious answer - the wireless carriers, who already support individual subscriber needs, but interworking with new enterprise CPE technology in the form of IP desktop devices and IP Telephony servers such as IP-PBXs, Unified Messaging/Unified Communication, and IP ACDs(for customer contact activities).

The Business "Mass" Market

With IP networking and cell phones, the remote distribution and mobility of enterprise staff is increasing significantly. While the "office" extension concept described above will work for employees who have office extensions in larger enterprises, there is a large, "mass" market of business users who don't have the same facilities but have the same functional needs. These include SOHO users, independent sales reps, etc., who select their own communication services but need to interact with external business partners and customers.

This market is going to be most attractive to service providers and carriers because these users' needs are similar to those of mobile users in larger enterprises, but not identical. In such cases, the "IP-Centrex" model for hosted services can come into play to provide the business communication services of an enterprise IP-PBX for a desktop, combined with wireless mobility services.

Conference Discussion Questions

In conjunction with an upcoming IIR conference this month on IP-based converging communications services, I will be moderating a panel discussion on new "transmodal" communications services for the enterprise and "mass" business markets. Here are some of the questions that will be discussed and debated in that session:

  • What do we really mean by "one-number" communication services?
  • What kinds of business users need such services, when and why?
  • What impact will multi-modal and transmodal communications have upon business end-user communication devices and contact initiation?
  • How will service providers market such services? - To individual business users (teleworkers, road warriors, SOHO, etc.), the enterprise organization, both?
  • How will outside service offerings interwork with internal enterprise CPE technologies, e.g., Wi-Fi connectivity, presence management, call/message screening, message notification, message storage, etc.?
  • How will enterprise regulatory responsibilities for tracking all forms of sensitive communications be supported by a service provider?
  • What role will the enterprise play in managing and supporting hosted or outsourced services to its end users?
  • What role will SIP and presence play in supporting personalized, multi-modal and transmodal contact services? Where will the "buddy lists" be maintained?
  • What kind of communication device(s) will be needed for one-number, multi-modal contacts? (Desktop, handheld)
  • Who will supply and maintain different kinds of mobile, handheld devices to enterprise end users?
  • What will enterprise organizations control in a handheld device supplied by a service provider, i.e., client software, security chip, etc.?
  • Will "one-numbers" be portable for the enterprise end-user when they depart the enterprise?
  • How will personal contacts be differentiated from business contacts for purposes of contact management and enterprise billing?

Service providers have always been talking about the business enterprise market as a target for their service offerings. With the growth of wireless mobility, that opportunity is becoming real for all types of enterprises because it personalizes communications at the individual user level. On the other hand, Wi-Fi and WiMAx may pose some threats to the cellular services providers, and it will be interesting to see how all this shakes out once the technology settles down into a "converged" steady state.

What Do You Think?

Will enterprise wireless mobility be a key factor in the VoIP and IP Telephony migration? Do you think that the service providers and carriers are prepared to support enterprise end users properly in terms of device management and interoperable services? Will enterprise technology managers be willing to share communication mobility responsibilities with service providers? Will "IP-Centrex" become more attractive to the SMB enterprise market than in the past, especially if that will include wireless mobility?

Let us know your opinions by sending them to [email protected]

Upcoming Conference Including "Transmodal Communication"

IIR Conference on New VoIP-based Services for Enterprises and Consumers, April 25-27, 2005, Scottsdale, AZ

A conference in April, primarily for carriers and service providers, is being produced by IIR USA. Under the catchall label of "The VoIP Summit," this conference will be discussing both the consumer and enterprise market requirements and opportunities for IP network-based service providers. I will be organizing a session that will discuss practical issues with new communication services for enterprise end users, such as "one-number" services. Such services may now interwork in complementary ways with wired and wireless unified communication technology within the enterprise to selectively support a variety of end user needs.

For program details, visit IIR USA's web site at:


White Paper Report: Progress and Direction of Enterprise Migration to Converged Communications

The Unified-View white paper report on the state of the industry and the enterprise market for communications convergence is still available. Entitled "Beyond VoIP: Enterprise Perspectives on Migrating to Multi-modal Communications and Wireless Mobility," the report was sponsored by the non-profit Unified Communications Consortium and leading providers of enterprise voice telecommunications technologies, including Alcatel, Avaya, Mitel, Nortel, and Siemens.

This objective report summarizes the current availability of key converged IP Telephony application technology from the provider industry, as well as a realistic assessment of the progress that enterprise organizations are making in migrating to communications convergence. The latter information is based on recent market studies of enterprise organizations from a converged usage perspective. The study provides practical feedback on the readiness of the market for the new IP-Telephony and multi-modal messaging technologies.

For a free copy of the report, go to www.unified-view.com

Art Rosenberg is a veteran of the computer and communications industry and formed The Unified-View to provide strategic consulting to technology and service providers, as well as to enterprise organizations, in migrating towards converged wired and wireless unified communications. He focuses on practical user requirements, implementation issues, and new benefits of multi-modal communication technologies for individual end users, both as a consumer and as a member of enterprise working groups. The latter includes identifying new responsibilities for enterprise communications management to support changing operational usage needs most cost-effectively.

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