BT To Offer Enterprises Converged Wireless, Wireline Voice

The converged service will combine voice-over-IP and cellular service in the same phone.

May 12, 2006

2 Min Read
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British telecommunications giant BT said Thursday that it will offer enterprises converged telephone service that combines fixed voice-over-IP (VoIP) and mobile access with access via a single phone. The company said that its so-called fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) plan will enhance productivity and reduce costs for large businesses because it will enable use of a single phone and phone number.

"BT has emerged as a clear leader in the new market created by the convergence of communications and IT," Francois Barrault, president of BT International, said in a statement. "We will use our knowledge and experience to ensure that this new innovative service will reduce the complexity of communications whilst also improving employee effectiveness and business productivity."

The company said the system will combine VoIP carried by wireless broadband systems and Wi-Fi both within enterprise premises and at public hotspots that it operates. The converged service also will include cellular voice access and will use phones that can access both modes of service.

The company said that live trials with customers will begin in early 2007.

Such a converged service makes sense for BT more than it does for other large telecoms and cellular operators, according to Derek Kerton, principal of the Kerton Group, a telecommunications consulting firm. He noted that the company has already launched a similar service for consumers."If you look at who's leading FMC in the world, they're the ones pushing the envelope," Kerton said. He noted that such convergence was more advantageous to BT because they don't own their own cellular network. Rather, the company wholesales cellular service from other carriers and offers it to their landline customers.

"They don't care if they drive people from cellular to fixed VoIP service," Kerton said in an interview. "In fact, it would be good for them." By contrast, cellular operators who tried such convergence are concerned that it would drive revenues derived from VoIP to fixed-line operators, he noted.

"That's why the others' aren't as crazy about the idea," Kerton said. "The other cellcos are more than dragging their feet. They don't see the strategic value in FMC."

Even at that, other cellular operators are likely to be forced by their enterprise customers to offer some sort of converged service but, unlike BT, they won't subsidize the cost of phones for the service, he said.

"They might offer it, but they won't subsidize it," Kerton said.0

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