Analysts debate the merits of fixed mobile

Most office workers who use their cell phones for work-related calls are not aware there are products that will give them corporate private branch exchange (PBX) features on their mobile handsets, according to some industry analysts.

The demand for so-called fixed mobile convergence (FMC) services is not as high as it would be if employees actually knew what’s available, said Nora Freedman, a research analyst with the enterprise networks group at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

“You access your corporate voicemail today from your mobile phone by dialing out (to) a number but you can (also) have a consolidated in-box and you can do some of the more advanced features, like call transfer (and) directory access from your mobile phone,” Freedman said, adding vendors need to do a better job of telling users what’s available.

“Enterprise users are going to start to demand to have these kinds of things on their desks.”

According to an IDC study released Tuesday, enterprise telecommunications managers surveyed by the research firm believe 28 per cent of their employees are using mobile phones as their “primary work phone.” Freedman says companies that provide PBX features, such as corporate directory access and a single voicemail mailbox, to mobile users can reduce costs and gain more control over their office telephone systems. For example, she said, a telecom manager could load a call logging program on to all sales representatives’ cell phones, so that when the workers leave the company, they do not take client records with them.

Sales force automation, customer relationship management and other enterprise applications are important to FMC strategies, said Philip Marshall, vice-president of wireless and mobile technologies at the Boston-based Yankee Group.

Marshall wrote a report – titled “Rationalizing Fixed-Mobile Convergence” – released last week, in which he predicted 70 per cent of FMC services will fail due to “poor execution strategies.”

Marshall believes one reason many will fail is because major carriers with both wireline and cellular units lack single FMC strategies.

“If you look at many of the service providers with both fixed and mobile entities . . . the strategies internally are different between the fixed side of the business and the mobile side of the business, in terms of how they deal with convergence,” Marshall said.

He adds enterprise telecommunications managers have a complex job ahead of them if they want to install FMC services that give mobile workers PBX features on their cell phones.

“You have to go to all of these vendors, then you have to go to your service provider, then you’ve got to deal with devices that your employees already have,” he said. “I mean, what are you going to do? Buy them another device with the dual mode capability? There are quite significant complexities to bring those types of solutions to market in the enterprise.”

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