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Fixed Mobile Integration

Is fixed mobile integration a contradiction in terms or the most efficient way of managing your mobile infrastructure? Lesley Hansen discusses…

Fixed Mobile Integration (FMI) is the supply of communication services based on the combination of wired and wireless technologies, and, theoretically, became possible at the outset of the 1990’s with the granting of the first licenses for digital mobile communications. Slowness in delivery of solutions has been caused not so much by technological hurdles, as by regulatory and commercial barriers. FMI is today being seen as the next logical step in the evolution of the convergence story, enabling mobile phone users to access the same services and features as users of a PBX extension. For mobile operators, fixed-mobile integration offers an opportunity to target enterprise customers by offering a 'converged' bundle of services that would provide the user with the best of both mobile and fixed network worlds. For PBX vendors, it offers an opportunity to enhance their PBX deployments at enterprise sites with mobile phone support.

There are many factors that are focusing the mind of the IT/telecoms manager today, but they can be summed up in two words – cost and control – and most of the pressing issues are a combination of both and relate directly to the delivery of features or functionality demanded by the business.

FMI to Reduce Cost

Controlling communications costs is a perennial concern for all businesses, exacerbated by the growing need to provide employees with mobile devices. The increasing size of corporate communications bills is aggravated by increasing use of mobile phones. Fixed Mobile Integration, when targeted at appropriate end users who will best benefit from the cost advantages of fixed rather than mobile call charges, has the potential to help enterprises curb their call spend. Analysts estimate that 40% to 60% of corporate mobile minutes are used in-building, highlighting an under-appreciated pain point. Mobile phones tend to be used more often for convenience – they are close at hand at all times, provide easy access to stored contact numbers and are more personal; as such, a mobile handset makes employees easier to contact.

Not every employee requires mobile communications. Call cost savings are specific to and dependent on the type of employee using the solution, from their job role through to their calling profile, but overall there is a marked increase in mobility, as organisations increasingly move towards hot-desking and flexible working. Mobile penetration within organisations is also increasing, exposing enterprises to inflated mobile spending. With mobile minutes costing more than fixed line minutes, there is a clear and compelling reason for enterprises to deploy FMI and achieve the reduction of costs for on-premise calls to fixed line rates.

FMI to Increase Control

A number of key enterprise features delivered on enterprise PBX’s and accepted as standard are not yet available in mobile solutions, for example, hold, transfer, swap calls, call conferencing and call recording. In addition, enterprise functionality such as the ability to access corporate voicemail sited at the enterprise in a secure area (as against personal voicemail sited at the service provider) and applications running on the PBX such as Interactive Voice Response systems, team working and call escalation procedures are not available to mobile users. As a result, calls to and from mobile phones are, in many solutions today, outside of the control of the business and control of call distribution and monitoring of these users is not integrated as a fully functional part of the corporate network. With only 25% of calls reaching their intended participant first time, improving communications is one of the top three reasons for deploying converged services. In order to enhance customer service, enterprises seek to improve the responsiveness of employees through quicker access to voicemail, picking up more calls, and allowing customer enquiries to be passed on to the most appropriate employee or team member. Enhancing internal communication is also important as enterprises seek to speed up decision making and boost colleague collaboration in an effort to reduce lead times. A fully integrated FMI solution is able to switch calls transparently, to be able to apply intelligent call routing and/or call control to all handsets, whether fixed or mobile. In this way, the FMI solution adds value to the core business telephony capabilities in order to deliver additional call handling and application services functionality. Whether the person called is on a mobile phone or a fixed handset becomes transparent to the caller.

Extending Features/Applications to Mobile Handsets

Extending calling features from a company’s PBX to a mobile handset means these features and functions are no longer the sole preserve of the office worker and are available when away from the desk or out of office. Other benefits of this form of voice focused convergence include the provision of single number reach and single voicemail. Subscribers may use a single fixed line number which will also reach them via their mobile, with all voicemail terminating at the company PBX. Enhanced calling services, which were previously only available on fixed lines, such as call recording and call tracking, may also be extended to mobile handsets. Combining local network routing and PBX extension to the public GSM network allows for almost all PBX features and benefits to be accessible via a mobile phone, both in and out of the office.

FMI for the Individual

Most individuals are looking for FMI to provide them with a single handset with a single address book and the ease of having access to PBX capabilities when out of the office. It is very hard to cost justify a FMI solution based on these preferences. In certain situations, however, where DECT or PMR handsets are in use with a high cost of handset replacement and the expense of deploying and supporting multiple mobile communications solutions, a cost argument for FMI and use of a single GSM handset can be made. In most cases, it is only when the areas of cost reduction, call control and application availability become part of the equation that delivering a single handset solution becomes a serious business proposition.

FMI for the Business

Most business managers view FMI as solutions to reduce mobile call costs. The more astute may be aware of the advantages of call distribution and control and the addition of PBX applications for mobile phone users. Only the most astute are aware of the potential to make significant savings on the deployment of communication infrastructure and, in some cases, to remove the PBX from new office deployments. Instead, a mobile handset based Private Mobile eXchange (PMX) solution can be rolled out, deploying PBX services to users without the cost of local cabling, fixed handsets or the support and deployment of the local PBX. A PMX can be used to deploy PBX services without the need for an onsite PBX.

Health and Safety

For businesses such as retail, manufacturing and logistics, an FMI solution can overcome health and safety issues relating to maintaining contact with employees in large warehouses of storage spaces and can increase in-building mobile covergance while reducing call costs by having mobile handsets operating as PBX extensions. FMI increases the business’s overall ability to contact employees, lessens time to respond to customer and colleague queries, and provides a platform for quicker decision making.

Justifying FMI Deployment

Each of the areas described above should be considered when creating the business case for FMI. Businesses should consider the total cost of deployment. For micro-network based solutions, this means antennae (access points), handset, deployment and ongoing management costs. The ability to use ubiquitous handsets, as opposed to specialist devices, can help ensure monetary payback on deployment. Depending on the businesses communication strategy, selective distribution of FMI solutions can help to ensure cost control, while ubiquitous deployments can assist in overall communication efficiencies. Non-call related savings, such as infrastructure, maintenance and productivity, are becoming an increasingly important component of the enterprise business case as mobile operators use increasingly aggressive pricing as a tool to combat micro-based solutions. GSM micro-networks can have distinct benefits over alternative access such as DECT, PMR and WiFi solutions. For example, a reduced need for wired access points, reducing the need for wiring and fixtures, enhanced handset battery life, no requirements to deploy dual-mode handsets, allowing convergence to be achieved with an enterprise’s existing handset base and ‘green’ effects such as reduced handset transmission power.

For more about Fixed Mobile Integration visit www.privatemobilenetworks.com.

The author

Lesley Hansen, TeleWare plc.

(ITadviser, Issue 61, Spring 2010)

 

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