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Fixed/mobile networks driven by cost savings, not advanced services -- DuPont

Corporations need converged fixed and mobile nets, but it's cost savings that get projects approved, according to the guy who spends $100M on telecom services at DuPont every year.

Sophisticated network services may be the future of corporate networks, but they're not the primary reason customers buy them, according to DuPont's telecommunications guru.

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"Our interest in unified communications and fixed-mobile convergence goes beyond voice. Single identity and collaboration features bring a tremendous value," according to Tom Marcin, director of global communications for DuPont. "But I and my colleagues can't justify that spending just for that."

Marcin -- who said the time he spends working with industry groups developing standards for voice over IP and wireless networking, and calls himself a fan of the networking industry -- was trying to counterbalance the prevailing view on a vendor-heavy Interop panel that cost savings is a trivial reason to merge fixed and mobile phone networks.

"I don't think FMC is about voice; I think it's about data," said Alan S. Cohen, VP of mobility solutions for Cisco Systems Inc. "If you think the only role of FMC in the enterprise is to save on a cell phone bill, you're leaving 85% of the technology on the table. You're not taking advantage of location, security, collaboration; if you don't architect your vision around that, you're leaving a lot of technology on the table."

Cisco CEO John Chambers spent the conference's lead keynote describing the company's vision for the ubiquitously connected, intelligent, business-process-automating mobile network of the future.

"The killer app that's fueling the growth of IP telephony is embedding it into business processes to compress cycle times, eliminate human latency and deliver more efficiency," according to Louis J. D'Ambrosio, president and CEO of chief Cisco VoIP competitor Avaya, who got his chance to paint a corporate vision on the last day of the conference. "It allows you to take this giant animal called business processes and shoot it."

All well and good, Marcin said. But it's not going to convince the people that approve the $100 million DuPont spends every year on telecommunications, and demand that as much as $10 million of it be cut every year.

"The phrase 'We'll do more for less' seems to have become embedded in corporate minds," Marcin said. "Our CEOs, our COOs continue to expect us to reduce our telecom spend year over year while expanding those services.

"We're not router jockeys any more. We're expected to transform the business with new capabilities, but at the same time we're expected to reduce our spend," Marcin said.

The way to sell FMC, and possibly other unified communications services, is to demonstrate how much customers can save on their cell phone bills with systems that can pick up a cell phone call and route it over a WiFi network instead of the cell network.

"We have 20,000 cell phone users, and people just love to use their cell phones," Marcin said. "We've tried to change that with policies, but they love cells -- they have people on speed dial, know how to use them. We're finding it's not practical to change that behavior, and we're trying to drive the costs out in other ways."

That doesn't mean DuPont will be stuck with low-cost, low-tech networks, or that other major customers will, either. But proving fixed/mobile networks can save money is the way to get more ambitious projects approved.

"You drive the technology, save us some money on voice services, and we'll use some of that savings to invest in single identity and other applications," Marcin said.

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