Feature Article

Mobile UC Solutions Hit the Street in Droves

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines

Mobile communications have become an indispensible tool for many workers across the planet and a driving force in improving productivity. But when it comes to unified communications, mobile communications frequently has gotten back-of-the-bus status. That's starting to change, however, as more UC solutions providers hit the accelerator on their mobile efforts.

For example, Mitel (News - Alert) this spring joined the BlackBerry Alliance Program and set plans to add BlackBerry Mobile Voice System 5 to its unified communications solutions. That means BlackBerry (News - Alert) smartphones can deliver the same user experience as a Mitel desk phone, including the ability to access unified communications and collaboration information, including corporate contacts and voicemails, using Mitel Unified Communicator Advanced Mobile Portal. BlackBerry devices as a result also can automatically update Mitel's Dynamic Status using Mitel UC Advanced Dynamic Location, a recently announced BlackBerry smartphone application that leverages GPS and other location-based capabilities.

"As companies look to extend their enterprise mobility to users, voice and voice feature integration is a natural progression and another area that can provide sizable cost-savings," says Mike Sapien of research firm Ovum (News - Alert). "Vendor solutions like Mitel Mobility Solutions with the BlackBerry Mobile Voice System allow organizations to extend their in-office capabilities anywhere, anytime and from mobile devices. This will be crucial to increasing productivity and responding to customers in every business."

Also this spring, CounterPath (News - Alert) Corp. launched its NomadicPBX application, which seamlessly connects all employees' mobile phones via a mobile network-based service. The product was designed to allow wireless carriers and mobile virtual network operators to launch enterprise fixed/mobile convergence services quickly and affordably. The application, which is based on CounterPath's Network Convergence (News - Alert) Gateway platform, offers presence, instant messaging/short message service and a select set of enterprise features.

"With NomadicPBX, CounterPath is now the first company to provide an end-to-end FMC solution, from servers to endpoints, that bridges the mobile and wired domains," says Donovan Jones (News - Alert), president and CEO of CounterPath. "NomadicPBX is a game-changer that enables wireless carriers, MVNOs and other service providers to escape voice commoditization by offering a wide range of market-differentiating services that are an ideal fit for today's increasingly mobile workforces."

Agito and Avaya (News - Alert) also are working together to extend PBX and UC functionality to mobile devices. Agito's RoamAnywhere Mobility Router extends Avaya UC, PBX and deskphone features to mobile devices including the Apple (News - Alert) iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Research in Motion BlackBerry smartphones.

"As a gold-level member of the Avaya DevConnect (News - Alert) program, Agito delivers compliance-tested mobile unified communications solutions to joint customers across the globe," says Christian Gilby, Agito's product marketing director. "Joint customers benefit from Avaya's market-leading mid-call control features delivered to users' handsets via Agito's RoamAnywhere, enabling mobile users to be more accessible and productive, while reducing enterprise telecommunications costs."

Also this spring, unified communications provider Goober Networks (News - Alert) went into beta with release 3.0 of its UC solution, which includes multi-protocol IM, voice to landlines and cell phones, and multipoint videoconferencing for Windows and Macintosh computers.

In another recent development involving mobile and unified communications, Verizon (News - Alert) Business in May introduced a service called Global Fixed Mobile Convergence that was designed to reduce mobile phone roaming charges for European workers.

It employs special mobile handset client software to determine and establish the most cost-effective routes for roaming mobile calls. The devices Verizon is currently targeting with this FMC service are the BlackBerry, and Nokia (News - Alert) smartphones, which now have 95 percent marketshare. The company in early May was in the process of developing a client for the iPhone as well.

In another recent development involving mobile and unified communications, Verizon Business introduced a service called global Fixed Mobile Convergence that was designed to reduce mobile phone roaming charges for European workers.

The new service - which includes a single number that will ring both the user's mobile and wireline phones - is available now in Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Graham Starkins, group manager of Verizon's Fixed Mobile Convergence products, says given no mobile operator has ubiquitous coverage across Europe, businesses often face large wireless bills when their employees make calls while on travel.

It works like this: Say a user in the U.K. wants to call Belgium from his mobile phone. To avoid hefty fees, the mobile client on his device intercepts the call and instead of dialing out through the mobile operator, the Verizon service diverts it to a mobile gateway, the BroadSoft (News - Alert)-based VoIP platform operated by Verizon then dials out to the user in Belgium, and the system joins the two call legs. All of this is transparent to the user and can mean a call that costs a half to a third of what it would otherwise cost, says Starkins.

Roberta Mackintosh, director of global unified communications and collaboration at Verizon Business (News - Alert), explains to UC Magazine that with this new service: "Cost savings will get their attention, but the other features will keep them there."