Six of the world's biggest telephone companies have created an alliance to push combined fixed-line and mobile services to consumers and businesses.
The Fixed-Mobile Convergence Alliance (FMCA) is headed by the UK's BT and also includes Brasil Telecom, Korea Telecom, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT), Rogers Wireless and Swisscom. However as yet we have been unable to find a website for the global organisation, having been pipped to the post by the Family Motor Coach Association and Fort McMurray Construction Association.
Maybe this demonstrates the degree to which the alliance is concentrating purely on phones. Together, they account for 122 million fixed-line and 23 mobile phone customers, after all. It is also encouraging other operators to join. Around 15 operators have already expressed interest, the FMCA claims.
The alliance members have pledged to share information and expertise on converged fixed-mobile services and work jointly on common standards.
The group's vision is for people to use one phone with one number, address book and voicemail bank, taking advantage of cheap, high-speed connectivity in their fixed-line home or office setting, while enjoying mobility outside in the wide-area cell phone network, said Steve Andrews, chief of BT's mobility and convergence unit.
Initially, development work will focus on 3G handsets with Bluetooth, according to Andrews. These phones will allow users at home or in the office to link to Bluetooth base stations with their fixed broadband connections, and to roam onto mobile networks when outside the Bluetooth footprint. Data speeds up to 700Kbit/s will be possible in the wireless Bluetooth cell, where calls could also be priced at normal fixed-line rates or lower, he said.
Bluetooth will be the technology of choice until 3G phones with Wi-Fi capability become available at prices comparable for high-end mobile phones, according to Andrews. Most operators, he said, don't expect availability of high-end, well-priced handsets with Wi-Fi capability for another 18 months to two years.