Fixed-to-mobile convergence (FMC) might be the hottest topic in telco circles today, but analysts say that except for a few select enterprises most organisations will wait out the decade until it becomes feasible.
FMC promises the ability to merge wired and wireless telecommunication resources so that users can have what amounts to their desktop phone in a handheld device in their pocket.
And while FMC promises reduced call costs, access to multiple communication lines via one number and seamless network switching, the mobile technology behind it is dragging its feet.
Telecoms analyst, Paul Budde of BuddeComm said while FMC users are scarce and limited to big business, the technology will not take off until mobile carriers are forced into implementing mobile Next Generation Networks (NGN) sooner.
"The mobile market wants to hold off until 2012 when it will deploy 4G technologies; however, competition and threats from WiMax will push this forward a few years," Budde said.
IP both ways "An IP network is needed on both the mobile and fixed sides, which means mobile networks will need to replace 3G with a true IP wireless network, which could be 4G, WiMax or IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem).
"Once carriers are pressured enough by the market and competition, and implement NGN, large-scale deployment will happen, but until then FMC will be used only sparsely."
Telsyte managing director Warren Chaisatien said that ultimately, FMC will use handsets capable of switching between available broadband networks based on speed and cost of service and location. The technology, he says, will be driven by an entirely mobile market which will demand seamless switching between communication lines from workplace PBXs to cellular networks in remote areas.
"FMC will allow users to use one phone number for all their communications lines at any location and cuts telecoms costs by limiting cellular usage and bypassing mobile roaming charges when making international calls," he said.
In the meantime, FMC early adopters can stroll about 30 meters from their broadband-networked buildings until their WiFi lifelines, which connect their dual-mode phones to network access points, drop out.
The PBX keeps its place Budde said while a big inhibitor to FMC adoption is quality and security, the technology is used primarily over PBXs which can be built securely.
"FMC is not happening, because the technology is lacking which means it is too costly, fraught with dangers and requires an engineer every other day," he said.
"You can emulate a wireless system in a building [where] you can roam with your VOIP or mobile phone over a campus or business network, which is privately controlled so you can build a quality and secure network."
Australia's RMIT University IT services helpdesk team leader Salmaan Syed said although his university has not implemented FMC, it is conscious of telecoms costs and quality and has considered campus-wide VOIP.
"[While] I haven't heard of any plans for [FMC], the university is part of a wider push for alternative solutions such as VOIP and is quick to take to a technology when it becomes feasible," Syed said.
"We have a good deal with Telstra which provides us with mobile rates similar to land line [charges], so we are using that at the moment."
Will data be the driver? The university is not alone, according to Chaisatien, who said FMC will be held off until data communication costs can sway mobile users.
"I can imagine a time in the near future where the situation will reverse and mobile data communication will be cheaper than voice as data becomes the predominant market telecommunications service over voice," he said.
Both Chaisatien and Budde said mobile carriers will be forced into alliances with fixed line providers as broadband forms the basis of FMC
"BT (British Telecom) has entered into a partnership with Vodafone UK to provide broadband access to [Vodafone's] customers [and] they have found while FMC works, it is a long way from mass market appeal," Chaisatien said.