For a field that can trace its roots to Benjamin Franklin and his kite, the level of innovation at work in wireless today is truly phenomenal. We're still pushing the price and performance envelopes, and new technologies and solutions appear at a rate that engenders jealousy in most other fields of high tech. But one key technological and market direction stands out in wireless, and 2007 is going to be its breakout year.
That opportunity is convergence, usually under the heading of fixed/mobile convergence (FMC). FMC is the creation of a connection between a cell phone and a PBX -- in other words, making the mobile handset an extension on the enterprise telecom network. Dial that extension, and reach someone halfway around the world. And the recipient of the call has access to all of the company's telecom features, including simplified dialing, least-cost routing, the company phone directory and (everyone's favorite) one, central voice mail system!
But there's another form of convergence that's equally important, and that's called mobile/mobile convergence (MMC). This is the ability to hand off calls (and, while we're at it, data connections as well) between two different wireless technologies, most commonly a cellular system and a Wi-Fi-based wireless LAN. A handset equipped with both radios (which is becoming increasingly common) and appropriate software could thus be used as both a cellular phone and a Wi-Fi cordless phone in the office, in the residence and in public spaces. Coupled with FMC, we have the most convenient and powerful mobile communications concept ever devised. And, as noted above, 2007 is going to see both FMC and MMC appearing in the marketplace in many forms.
The most common of these will be in enterprise-centric implementations, wherein corporations will install the required convergence equipment themselves. They'll have to, as the carriers are still some ways away from setting their convergence strategies. This situation creates great opportunities for those selling both telecom and networking equipment -- and these two are also converging via Voice over IP, so VARs and other resellers are already in front of these customers. FMC and MMC are today not all that visible to customers, but they will be shortly -- the power and convenience of convergence regardless makes it the most exciting direction for wireless over the next year.
About the author
Craig J. Mathias is a Principal with Farpoint Group, an advisory firm specializing in wireless networking and mobile computing. Founded in 1991, Farpoint Group works with technology developers, manufacturers, carriers and operators, enterprises and the financial community. Craig is an internationally-known industry and technology analyst, and serves on the advisory boards of four industry conferences. He is the author of numerous articles on mobile and wireless topics, and a columnist for Computerworld, SearchMobileComputing.com, and Unstrung.com. As an expert on SearchNetworkingChannel.com, Craig answers your wireless LAN and mobile networking questions. He holds an Sc.B. degree in Applied Mathematics/Computer Science from Brown University.