Aruba may have figured out the FMC secret sauce


Aruba may have figured out the FMC secret sauce
Aruba Networks may have given fixed-mobile convergence the boost it needs-an FMC solution for the enterprise that doesn't require any mobile operator involvement. 

Aruba today introduced the third phase of its enterprise FMC program that was launched last year. (see story #3) Its new Mobile Voice Continuity software seamlessly and automatically manages the hand-off of data and voice-over-WiFi phone calls between its wireless LAN and a mobile-phone network. The kicker: the IP PBX doesn't need to be upgraded and enterprises don't have to partner with mobile operators to do it. 

All that is needed is a dual-mode phone and a standard voice contract with a mobile operator. Once the phone moves out of WiFi coverage, an enterprise's mobility controller (MC) detects it and notifies the phone that it is going to bridge the call. It then sends the number being used to make the cellular call. The MC sets up a call over the PSTN to the phone on the cellular network. The phone detects the same number and silently picks up the call and drops the WiFi call. The same is true, only in reverse, as a user moves from a cellular network to the WiFi network. 

This is exactly the type of breakthrough that FMC needs-a solution totally managed by the enterprise that doesn't require any agreements with operators. As Michael Tennefoss, head of strategic marketing with Aruba puts it, operators don't even need to know a handoff between a WiFi and cellular network has occurred. 

For the most part, mobile operators haven't done a great job selling the notion of FMC.

FMC, with some exceptions, is languishing in Europe, where poor marketing, high tariffs and a lack of compelling handsets have largely been to blame for slow uptake. T-Mobile USA is expected to make the first foray into the U.S. FMC market with its highly anticipated Hotspot at Home WiFi/mobile service that will launch nationwide in mid-June.

While the consumer market has been one operators have targeted, it looks like the enterprise market offers a better opportunity for FMC. VoWiFi is already taking off, and users don't care as much about handset form factor. But one potential problem for operators is managing the entire user experience. There have been technical difficulties with handoffs between mobile networks and WiFi hotspots, while battery-life issues tend to plague handsets.

Putting FMC in the hands of enterprises, however, eliminates these issues for operators. (Aruba, by the way, says it has helped solve the battery-life issue by incorporating an algorithm that stops the phone from continually checking for broadcast signals.) Operators only need to focus on providing quality voice service on the mobile network. Meanwhile, there is plenty of opportunity for wireless operators without controlling the whole FMC experience. Tennefoss says operators can enable a number of features that can cut across the mobile and WiFi networks if they embrace the idea. The possibilities could be endless if operators move away from the mentality that they have to own every experience. -Lynnette

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