New products from Avaya, Nokia and BT could finally have made fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) a reality.
The benefits to business of FMC include the ability to use single handsets for both mobile and fixed-line calls, and the ability to cut call costs by only paying for more expensive mobile calls when the handset is not in range of the corporate private branch exchange or other routing device.
Phillip Redman, an analyst at Gartner, said, "Convergence in the enterprise is happening rapidly today on both the wired and wireless Lan, reducing network and device costs and driving new capabilities for voice and data access across wired and wireless networks."
Avaya and Nokia have designed an FMC system to allow companies to cut their mobile call costs and offer greater IP call functionality.
The joint offering, which has been trialled over six months among 100 users in the US, Europe and Asia, is a dual-mode mobile device that can make and receive calls over both mobile and fixed line networks.
By allowing a mobile phone to make calls via the enterprise private branch exchange, companies can save money by cutting down on calls made over more expensive mobile networks.
Nokia mobile phones can now be equipped with the Avaya Mobile software client, designed to be used for Nokia Series 60 mobile platform-based phones.
The client software allows users to access Avaya Communication Manager-based enterprise telephony capabilities, more commonly accessible on desktop IP phones. Mobile users will have access to features such as extension dialling, multi-party conferencing, call transfer, voicemail forwarding, group call features and call forwarding.
Avaya and Nokia plan to take FMC one step further early next year by extending the Avaya Mobile system to Nokia Wi-Fi phones, which will allow users to enjoy full IP functionality by connecting phones to IP-based wireless Lans.
BT has also entered the FMC market with its Bluephone broadband phone service, which allows users to use the same phone either in the office or home or on a mobile network.
The phone, supplied as part of the BT Fusion service, acts as a normal mobile GSM phone outside the office or home, but when inside routes calls through a BT hub onto a BT broadband line for cheaper calls.
The phone connects to the hub via Bluetooth short-range wireless technology, hence the name Bluephone. The hub can, theoretically, also be used to wirelessly connect laptops, printers and other Bluetooth-enabled hardware together, giving BT another unique selling point for the service.
BT provides a Motorola handset and hub free as part of these packages.
BT initially introduced the service to 400 early adopters in the summer and is due to make the service generally available this month.