Alcatel has adopted a switched wireless LAN from Colubris, as part of a managed fixed-mobile convergence solution which operators will sell to smaller businesses.

While enterprises are toying with converging fixed and mobile telephony onto a wireless LAN, small and medium businesses are ready to adopt it, as long as the equipment is provided and supported by one operator, says Carl Blume, director of product marketing at Colubris

"There are two models for FMC," said Blume. "In one it is sold as a managed service, where the carrier installs an entire WLAN infrastructure, as CPE [customer-premises equipment]. This model is very appropriate for SMEs, that may not have a lot of tech support on site, and are more than happy to outsource this to the carrier."

In the other model, the IT manager installs the wireless LAN service, perhaps with guidance from the provider as to which products work well with its service. The IT manager may get a more exact match to what he wants, but will have to face the risk that support calls to the operator may point the finger at his WLAN infrastructure.
New-technology issues such as these are leaving analysts to predict that most FMC products will fail.

Alcatel's carrier customers will be more likely to take a SIP approach to FMC than the UMA approach which suits mobile operators better, said Colubris CTO Pierre Trudeau: "No one has deployed full UMA yet," he said. "Pure IMS/SIP is more interesting." Although BT's current Fusion product is based on UMA, it uses a pre-standard version of the protocols, he pointed out.

Although an entire switched WLAN infrastructure with multiple access points may stretch previous definitions of operator-provided CPE, Colubris thinks the idea will fly. Alcatel chose the new, FMC-tuned, Wi-Fi architecture that Colubris announced last week, because installations on customer sites can be managed remotely form the operator's network control centre, and the equipment is enterprise grade, said Blume.

Alcatel chose Colubris over the Aruba Wi-Fi switch which its enterprise division already sells direct to enterprises for voice on Wi-Fi, despite Aruba's success in voice trials.

Alcatel's operator customers include BT, which is on the point of announcing more details of the business-grade Wi-Fi-based version of its Fusion convergence product. Although Alcatel's involvement has been announced, this is so far only for network infrastructure equipment.