Sourdough bread, Rice-A-Roni and wireless IT

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This year's annual CTIA Wireless I.T. trade show kicks off in San Francisco Oct. 23-25 and continues the split-personality theme—that is a focus on entertainment and the enterprise.

While mobile entertainment continues to dominate the show as it has done during the past several years, its less sexy brethren, the mobile enterprise, continues to plod along. Wireless in the enterprise is making steady headway for the simple reason that workforces are becoming increasingly mobile, and remote employees need to be more productive. Most of all, enterprises want to save money on IT costs.

Cost savings is what fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), otherwise known as dual-mode WiFi/mobile service, is supposed to give to the enterprise. FMC promises least-cost call routing and converged messaging benefits as well as more enhanced services, such as richer unified communications applications including presence, instant messaging and other collaboration tools.

Still, FMC faces significant barriers in the enterprise. The Yankee Group recently noted in a report that enterprises have a "not now" attitude about FMC services. They like the productivity benefits of FMC, but aren't impressed enough by the cost savings.

The market research firm suggests that enterprises may want FMC to be a low-cost or free capability included in a broader package of services.

According to the research firm, enterprise adoption of FMC remains low, with only 2 percent of large enterprises in Europe deploying FMC and even fewer in the U.S. and Canada. The Yankee Group says competition from alternative mobility initiatives, technological immaturity and reduced priority placed on voice communications by IT decision-makers have contributed to the low adoption rate. In addition, 29 percent of large enterprise IT decision-makers surveyed in the U.S. consider the technology "nice to have," but not a "critical" application on their IT/networking road map.

As such, Yankee Group says these statistics don't bode well for FMC in the form that carriers are marketing it. Carriers are pushing the idea that FMC can reduce costs for the enterprise. Yankee Group recommends that the focus needs to shift from cost reduction to an emphasis on productivity.

Given the fact that some carriers have approached FMC with trepidation, not sure of what the economic model or the demand might be, and the weak demand for FMC solutions in the enterprise, one has to wonder where this enterprise market is going. Is it only stalled or dead in the water?

Maybe Sprint will blaze some trails in the enterprise. The operator recently revealed it plans to work with enterprises on the rollout of its WiMAX network, enabling businesses to install femtocells inside their office environments and take advantage of automatic roaming onto the carrier's WiMAX network outside.

The advantage for enterprises, according to Sprint, is that the service will be similar to WiFi but more secure and with easy roaming onto a carrier network. Sprint has issued RFPs for WiMAX femtocells, and the carrier expects large enterprises to buy and deploy femtocells for consistent coverage across their offices and campuses, maintaining control over them as they do with current WiFi networks.

Converged services will be one of the hot topics at CTIA Wireless I.T. -Lynnette

P.S. FierceMarkets will bring you all the news and scoops from the CTIA I.T. Show. We are the official online show daily for CTIA. We will deliver all the news in our regular issue and at a custom micro-site entitled "CTIA Live!" Click here to check out the website.

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