Corporate enterprises may only be taking baby steps towards fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), but that isn’t stopping Siemens from delivering a product to bridge office, cellular, and wireless networks.The company announced HiPath MobileConnect, which includes an appliance that resides between the enterprise IP communications server and WLAN, along with a software client that resides in the dual mode handset and works with the MobileConnect device.

The idea is that the appliance will monitor calls made on dual-mode devices, then identify and select the best available network for the call. The software then manages the “handover” between a local area network (LAN) and a cellular one.

Siemens has designed HiPath MobileConnect to interoperate with virtually any wireless LAN equipment based on session initiation protocol (SIP) and dual-mode handset. This is an important differentiator, according to the company’s vice-president of product planning Luc Roy, because some products require compatibility with specific private branch exchange (PBXs) of various telecommunications providers.

“Most enterprise customers don’t want to cede the control of their PBX, mainly because unified communications is becoming so strategic,” he said. “There’s been this clash between the carrier and enterprise perspective.”

So far, Siemens has noticed interest in FMC from the health-care sector, retail and any other verticals where missed calls pose the risk of lost business opportunities. That said, Siemens is not necessarily expecting a mass rush to make the transition to FMC, he added.

“A lot of IT groups don’t really want to get into it. They know it’s a little early,” he admitted. “The general customers or even the early adopters, they will spend this year getting ready to do FMC.”

Those early adopters first have to make sure they have a SIP-enabled PBX, Roy said, even if it’s just a gateway. They also must be able to support roaming from wireless LANs to cellular networks. Siemens has expertise in both these areas, Roy added.

Although there might be considerable opportunity for Siemens to attract customers to HiPath Mobile Connect in North America, Europe has already made significant strides towards FMC, said Stéphane Téral, an analyst with Infonetics, based in Campbell, Calif.

“At least in that market, Siemens will have tough competition,” he said. “I would not necessarily say they’re a little bit late, but they are not the first ones doing this.”

Siemens has certified HiPath MobileConnect with the Siemens HiPath 8000 communications server, the Siemens HiPath Wireless platform and several dual-mode handsets. Ongoing testing with other platforms and devices is underway, Roy said.

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