F/MC Watch: An Enterprise-Centric Solution

The year 2006 is certainly looking like the year of fixed/mobile convergence, with solutions debuting at several tradeshows already before tax day. But until this week, all announced solutions had one thing in common: They were carrier-centric. That is, they extended the mobile provider’s network footprint—and cost and control thereof—into other network spaces.

On Monday of this week, Silicon Valley startup DiVitas Networks came out of stealth mode and announced an ambitious new technology solution that’s designed to put management of what the company is calling “unified mobile communications” squarely in the hands of enterprise IT personnel.

DiVitas’s Mobile Communications Platform—consisting of a Mobility Server and mobile client software—promises interoperability with corporate applications such as PBX and CRM and will bring application, voice, and text messaging capability to a single device with a single phone number.

“Our vision,” Rich Watson, DiVitas ‘s director of product management told VoIPplanet.com, “was designing and developing a new appliance for the enterprise that goes behind the firewall and meets campus mobility requirements, while also extending functions into the off-campus, cellular space, plus Wi-Fi hotspots and hotzones.”

By extension, according to DiVitas president and CEO Vivek Khuller, the vision was to bring enterprise-managed mobility to the 70 percent of the workforce that, if they have mobility at all, do so by virtue of their personal cell phones, which are not integrated into the organizational communications system.

“You’ll only need one number to be reached on campus and off campus,” Watson pointed out. The numbers for the supported phones get plugged into the Mobility Server, so there’s no need for the enterprise in question to have a special relationship with any particular mobile carrier. Moreover, the system makes it easy for the organization to track—and pick up the cost for—corporate use of employee’s mobile phones.

Of course, much rests on the capabilities of the phone used. DiVitas claims the system works with any phone, even softphones. But, clearly, the full-throttle voice/text/application solution calls for a dual-mode (cellular and Wi-Fi) device with a large display and some sort of keyboarding capacity.

Like previously unveiled F/MC solutions DiVitas ‘s Mobile Communications Platform (MCP) is designed to hand calls off between cellular networks and wireless LANs, on a best-available-connection basis. Unlike the others, MCP also addresses some of the still-problematic handoff issues within the WLAN itself, and is working with a number of Wi-Fi infrastructure vendors to support and enhance their proprietary efforts to improve the end-user VoWi-Fi experience while moving through corporate campus space.

One such vendor is Trapeze Networks, which made a joint announcement with DiVitas on Monday of successful interoperability of it’s WLAN Mobility System switch and access point products with the MCP. Also announced on Monday was the successful demonstration of cellular/Wi-Fi handoffs using the MCP and G-Tek Electronics Group’s new PWG600 handset. The G-Tek demos took place at last month’s CeBIT 2006.

In fact, partnering is the key to DiVitas ‘s success, according to Rich Watson. The company is working with a broad range of Wi-Fi infrastructure vendors and phone manufacturers—including Cisco, Symbol, Aruba, Nokia, Samsung, and UTstarcom—to ensure smooth interoperability.

One of the challenges for DiVitas in making good on its pledge to interoperate with all phones and network infrastructures will be generating the necessary multiple versions of the client software, since rrelevant standards are not yet in place. Fortunately, CEO Khuller told VoIPplanet.com, the 80/20 rule applies here. A small number of client versions will effectively cover the bulk of the market opportunities for now. Later, as standards are ratified, DiVitas plans to make its client architecture open.

The Mobility Server supports up to 100 simultaneous users. It is stackable and thus scalable for large centralized deployments. It can also be used for distributed deployments in branch offices, stores, and the like.

Although DiVitas did not specifically discuss pricing with VoIPplanet.com, the company’s promotional literature stressed modest cost. The MCP technology will initially be available direct from DiVitas, and through a network of VARs and distributors.

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