A Brief History of UC&C, Part Five: Fixed Mobile Convergence

Today we'll add the fifth dimension to our brief historical review as we discuss how fixed mobile convergence (FMC) has become integral to unified communications and collaboration (UC&C). First, we must start with a definition for FMC beginning with what it is not: FMC is not the substitution of a mobile phone service for a wired desktop phone. Rather, FMC incorporates mobile devices and mobile networks into the UC&C ecosystem -- providing collaborative applications equally well on a wired desktop station as on an intelligent mobile device.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF UC: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

As with other elements of UC&C, fixed mobile convergence had multiple contributors. In one aspect, the introduction of mobile email and mobile calendaring can be largely attributed to the BlackBerry, introduced as a smartphone in 1999 by Research in Motion (RIM). The device provided a screen, qwerty keyboard, mobile phone, and an accompanying service synchronized user's email and calendaring with the corporate servers so updates could be made and viewed with equal ease on the user's computer or BlackBerry. Subsequent editions also allowed for attachments like Microsoft Word documents to be viewed and (to a lesser extent) edited from the mobile device. Other smartphones have since added the capacity to provide applications like mobile email and calendaring, largely based on accessing these applications over an Internet connection back to the corporate Intranet.

ANALYSIS: What's up (or not) with convergence?

Another aspect of FMC is the ability to bring voice-centric applications found in a VoIP/IP-PBX environment to a mobile device. Follow-me/find-me was among the first features that early IP-PBXs provided to the mobile device because features these could be provided with little alteration to the mobile device. However, more elaborate features like call transfer between a mobile device and an IP-PBX station or presence monitoring on a smartphone typically require that a) a UC application be installed on the phone and b) a server or appliance (hosted or premise-based) negotiate between the native IP-PBX features and mobile devices attached to a mobile network. Special appliances that allow a Wi-Fi enabled smartphone to connect over the campus LAN to the IP-PBX also fall under this category. As IP-PBX features evolve, some of these integrated voice features are being deployed natively within the UC&C infrastructure.

The third and all important aspect of FMC is the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices, particularly as personal mobile devices that need to be supported by the corporate IT department. Some companies offer the option for users to pick their own smartphone, while others issue a mobile device just like they issue a laptop. But the wide variety of device operating systems, displays, user interfaces and computing capabilities on a plethora of mobile devices have added to the complexity of FMC infrastructure suppliers. Nevertheless, an effective FMC integration is increasingly a key to successful UC&C deployment.

Next time, we'll wrap up our series with some analysis covering the first five installments and take a look at what the future might bring to UC&C.

Learn more about this topic

A Brief History of UC&C, Part One: VoIP and the Softswitch

A Brief History of UC&C, Part Two: The IP PBX

A Brief History of UC&C, Part Three: UM, UC and SIP

A Brief History of UC&C, Part Four: Video Collaboration

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