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February 2007
Volume 10 / Number 2

The FMC Game

By Mads Lillelund, Feature Articles


Did you know that cell phone users will be able to roam seamlessly between cellular and WiFi networks without experiencing any interruption in calls? This phenomenon is what we mean when we talk about Fixed/Mobile Convergence (FMC). The technology that makes this possible is, in essence, available today. In fact, current research and ongoing demos will set the stage for rapid deployment of FMC in the years to come. The ability to seamlessly roam between cellular and WiFi networks with WiFi-enabled devices is obviously appealing, as users will experience increased flexibility, improved coverage, and significant cost savings.

Although we will, in short order, have the technological capability to take advantage of single number/single device convenience, we will not see FMC technology being widely adopted until late 2007 or early 2008. Why? Because technology is only one piece of the puzzle. Other variables that still need to be calculated are who the players will be; the roles each will play; and which business models will be profitable. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

The Players
In the near future, voice carriers like Verizon, AT&T, and others, will likely partner with WiFi solution providers like Bluesocket, as well as handset makers such as Nokia, Samsung, and Motorola. These three-way partnerships will result in carriers creating new services for their customers; infrastructure providers integrating software into their solutions; and handset makers building WiFi-enabled devices with FMC client software.

As the market develops over time, new partnerships will emerge as technologies and applications become more tightly integrated. Just recently, we have seen eBay purchase Skype (news - alert), Google (quote - news - alert) offer Google Talk, and MSN and Yahoo! offer a version of peer-to-peer voice communications along with calling plans to directly access cell and landline numbers. In addition, many phone manufacturers are now offering WiFi phones only. The trend toward integration and industry crossover is obvious and technologies exist to achieve success in these endeavors.

Market disrupting technologies such as FMC always create new marketplace dynamics. Who will take advantage of the opportunity? Will new entrants emerge? Absolutely. Any one of the aforementioned companies could cause a significant market disruption, a market with substantial revenue — they’ll each be looking to lock in customers. WiFi solution providers like Bluesocket will look to partner with handset makers to offer a complete solution — specifically for the enterprise market (at least initially) as the cost savings for any enterprise of any size can be significant.

The Game
Since we’re talking about moving voice instead of data from one AP to another, FMC players need to eliminate dead spots and breaks in network connectivity. Otherwise, voice service on the WiFi network will be unreliable and drive people to continue to either use their desktop phones or stay on the current cell network — ultimately making seamless roaming a moot point.

Working with MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) technology to eliminate coverage problems and enable reliable voice service, Bluesocket now offers enterprise class MIMO APs. The question is, as FMC moves into the deployment phase, will users be able to control when the handoff to the cheaper WiFi networks occur, or will embedded software decide for them? This is a decision that still needs to be worked out and may actually vary, depending on how the customer is purchasing the solution.

The Rules
With the adoption of dual mode phones, the basic cell phone and employees’ traditional desk sets will suffer the strongest cannibalization, with the exception of VoIP-based networks, which can take advantage of the emerging FMC technology. Carriers are currently evaluating the impact of flat versus service-based fees on their existing business models. With a flat fee, enterprises will be able to cap their costs at a minimum, and may even realize significant cost reductions because total number of minutes used — which can obviously spike during busy cycles — will no longer be of concern. A service-based fee offers carriers the ability to stabilize or increase their revenue streams by providing ‘sticky’ applications, such as navigation, customized Web content, music, video, and more.

On the whole, carriers will be approaching FMC from a customer retention standpoint. By enabling customers to use one device, carriers can make it a sticky service. Customers may increase their overall cell usage by taking advantage of a single phone number feature — meaning, no more dialing into an office voice mail and having to enter a password to gain access. One phone, one number that works anywhere and everywhere; a device that can take advantage of current cell coverage as well as any WiFi location.

A win-win for everyone involved, FMC technology offers customers access anywhere and everywhere using devices that seamlessly migrate between cellular and WiFi, home and office.

Mads Lillelund is the CEO of Bluesocket. (news - alert) For more information, visit the company online at


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