Ericsson readies mobile unified communications push

The company is planning to integrate mobile networks with unified communication services for enterprises

Enterprises will in the future get hosted unified communication services via mobile networks, according to telecom vendor Ericsson, which has developed the underlying platform to make that possible.

Like many IT systems, unified communications is increasingly offered as a hosted service. Ericsson wants mobile operators to take advantage of their networks to offer these services to enterprises by using its Mobile Unified Communication platform. It will offer voice and HD video conferencing services combined with presence irrespective of what device a user has. Users will also able to switch between devices without interruptions, Ericsson said.

One of the technologies Ericsson has based its unified communications platform on is RCS (Rich Communication Services), which was developed to let operators compete with Web apps such as Skype and WhatsApp. It is a set of features originating from IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) standards, which is a framework for delivering IP-based services in fixed and mobile networks.

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RCS has been slow to take off, but is now starting to gain traction, according to Thomas NorA(c)n, head of Product Area Radio at Ericsson. The maturation of RCS and the market, combined with increased investments by operators in IMS means the time is now right, he said.

The first version of Mobile Unified Communication will be available during the third quarter.

With this product Ericsson is entering a sector that's getting increasingly competitive. Cisco Systems and Microsoft are the leaders in unified communications thanks to their installed base and perceived positions of leadership, according to Infonetics Research.

Anyone offering services based on Mobile Unified Communication would also have to compete with services such as Hangouts from Google and Lync Online from Microsoft, both of which are part of larger collaboration suites, according to Steve Blood, research vice president at Gartner.

"I think a lot of thought has gone into the proposition. The big challenge is if Ericsson's partners will be able to position this successfully against other cloud enterprise collaboration platforms," Blood said via email.

With more mobile applications, enterprises are becoming increasingly dependent on good coverage to be productive, on the road as well as in the office. A growing number of CIOs are investing in Wi-Fi networks to improve indoor coverage, but Ericsson is convinced cellular small cells have a role to play, as well.

For this purpose, it last year announced the Radio Dot System, a small cell that has an Ethernet port, weighs 300 grams and will start shipping later this year.

"Now it will be possible to build much better indoor coverage in a much more cost efficient way," said NorA(c)n.

To simplify the installation, Ericsson has developed an app that helps find places where coverage is not strong.

To make it easier for operators to start using these miniature base stations, Ericsson also announced what it calls small cell-as-a-service, which essentially means that operators outsource the installation and operation. The best fit is when a number of operators want to join forces and share the small cells, according to Ericsson.

The Dot as well as the Mobile Unified Communication platform will be demonstrated at Mobile World Congress, which starts in Barcelona on Feb. 24.

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