Cellular plus WebEx could yield mobile Centrex on steroids

* Moving the PBX and collaborative apps into the mobile ether

If one of my readers has his way, collaborative network platforms such as Cisco WebEx will mix with mobile operators' wireless networks to provide, in effect, an IT-rich, high-end mobile Centrex service.

Huh?

Think about it. A platform like WebEx supports cloud-based telephony, video and application services across a 150-country network of data centers. It uses content delivery routing and load balancing for optimum performance.

Sneak a peek at the mobile phones of tomorrow

Now, fast forward a few years to when the majority of wired desk phones disappear and most user handsets accessing the WebEx collaborative services suite are mobile. What's the relevance of the corporate PBX and terrestrial corporate networks at that point?

The status of the corporate PBX could be demoted if dial plans, voice "switching" and collaborative application goodies could ride the worldwide 3G or 4G mobile networks in and out of the WebEx (or other collaborative) cloud service. For his part, my reader envisions that, in his company, a bit of PBX infrastructure would remain to serve the desk phones that endure and automated call distribution (ACD) functions.

I found this suggestion, from a fellow who manages a patchwork of networks in more than 100 countries around the world, fascinating. Because of the diversity of his network service plans, users, coverage, handset availability and so forth, this particular reader is always on the prowl for how an operator or large equipment company can provide services that make equipment, billing and user experiences at his company more consistent across borders.

His vision is for the big wireless operators to team up with the likes of Cisco/WebEx to provide what could be consider Super-Duper Mobile Centrex service, which could cover just about any telecommunications and IT services needed from the cloud. Corporate mobile phones would participate seamlessly in the cloud's dial plan. The cloud routes calls and performs rich content and application delivery. The collaborative platform's planetary voice mail system would theoretically transcend disparate equipment installed in different countries.

Enterprise femtocells, which have yet to emerge in significant deployments, could even play a role within corporate walls to boost internal cellular signals.

Now, the big sticking point already presented itself a couple of paragraphs up: the teaming of the collaboration platform companies, like Cisco, with the giant mobile network operators to successfully design a comprehensive IT service delivery experience. As we've learned with the many partnerships, acquisitions and mergers over the decades, joining forces and tearing down traditional fiefdoms is no easy task.

Can it be done? That remains to be seen.

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