Cable & Wireless has announced a five year partnership with Orange to use the mobile network to provide national roaming in the UK for "its new and first to market fixed mobile convergence (FMC) service." In fact, it is by no means the first enterprise product and will not be available before the end of the year.
Sandra O'Boyle of Current Analysis told telecomseurope.net, "BT has stolen the FMC limelight with Corporate Fusion which relies on WLAN in the office and dual-mode GSM/WiFi phones. C&W needed to come up with its own solution. Its approach is private enterprise mobile network using its guardband licence to provide pico and femto cells in office. Customers can use existing mobile handsets so the whole roaming issue in and out of the office appears to be less of an issue."
She added, "Key unknowns are prices of these base stations and how attractive the tariffs will be. And seems like it could be fairly easy for any of the other guardband winners to deliver a similar service including BT, COLT and O2, whereas it will be difficult for C&W to deliver outside of the core UK market."
It's significant too that although Orange is a strong consumer brand, the FMC service will be for enterprise customers. BT's long-heralded Fusion for the home was a flop, as was T-Mobile's German service, T-One. Both were withdrawn last year. O2's Genion service in Germany, launched in 2005, is perhaps the most notable exception to prove the rule. It was launched in 2005 and as of September last year had 4.15 million customers, according to the operator.
Consumers are more interested in replacing their fixed lines than a combined offer, it seems. A report by Eurostat, the European Commission's research arm, published last November, revealed that many households are mobile-only either replacing a fixed line or simply not bothering to have one installed, in eastern and central Europe.
Almost half (48%) of Lithuanian households are mobile-only and so are 47% of Finnish, 42% of Czech, 38% of Portuguese, 24% of Belgian homes. France has 14% of mobile-only dwellings, the UK 13% and Germany 11%.