VoIP infrastructure provider Sonus Networks this month introduced its new MobilEnterprise FMC business services solution, which enables mobile and converged operators to offer their enterprise customers access to a full range of SIP services both within the enterprise premises and on their mobile phones when out and about.
As company solutions manager for wireless Gareth Price-Jones explains, MobilEnterprise FMC extends business services not just to traditional SIP endpoints but to any mobile phone. “It’s about adding mobile devices into the mix of end user devices that we can deliver our business services to—but very much as a hosted application from the network operator,” he says. “So this isn’t something we’d sell direct to an enterprise… this is a hosted solution that would be provided by the mobile operator or converged operator to their enterprise customers.”
The result is that a user can access the full range of SIP services on the mobile network just as if they were in the building. “And when the user’s in the enterprise environment, we have some technology which we launched at Mobile World Congress last year called mobilEdge … which basically converts mobile signaling coming from a handset, be that GSM or CDMA, into SIP—so it makes the basic GSM handset look like a SIP endpoint,” Price-Jones says.
In either case, Price-Jones says, the benefit to the user is straightforward. “The business services—find me/follow me, call forwarding, hunt groups and so on—that you would expect to see from an IP-centric service offering, they can then be delivered to those mobile devices, because as far as the core is concerned, it’s a SIP endpoint that they’re talking to,” he says. “So they’ll get the same sort of services as if they were using a Polycom phone or a soft client running on their PC.”
The services in question include everything from basic functionality like voicemail and three-way calling to refinements like incoming call restrictions and directed call pickup—as well as newer features like Sonus’ Web-based Enhanced Services Portal. “We see that the communications experience is going to become much more integrated with the desktop when in the enterprise, or with the Web browser on the enhanced mobile phone… and that’s one thing which we see as starting to drive some of the use of this technology,” Price-Jones says.
Crucially, Price-Jones notes, those services can serve as a key differentiator for the operator. “Whereas today a lot of mobile operators literally just sell minutes packages to enterprises and don’t really differentiate the service they provide them, this should enable the operator to offer a service that’s a lot stickier than what they have today. Whereas normally, at the end of the 18-month period, they’ll get a new service provider who will come along to them and say, ‘Change all your phones out and we’ll give you a much better price plan,’ and they’ll churn.’ Obviously that’s a big cost to the operator,” he says.
Moreover, this kind of service, Price-Jones says, is something that smaller enterprises really need. “Hosted unified communications is key in the SME area, where the level of complexity in the UC environment is much more than just a simple PBX—and having to manage that in an SME, where you don’t necessarily have the dedicated resources to be able to do that, is a key capability that the mobile operator can provide on a fully hosted basis,” he says.
In-building calls can be supported with either Wi-Fi or picocells—as a result of which, Price-Jones says, the relationship between the operator and the enterprise can be very symbiotic. “There is the advantage to the enterprise that they can use their mobile phones in the same way as they would expect to be able to use a PBX… and the mobile operator would want to run that on an in-building solution so they can maintain their cost basis at a low enough level to be able to give a very compelling pricing plan to the enterprise customer,” he says.
The solution is sold to operators on a per-user basis, allowing them to market the service to enterprise customers on a per-seat basis. “The advantage then is that, because they can amortize the cost of the infrastructure over a much wider base than you would if you were just an enterprise providing this as your own infrastructure… you should see a much more compelling proposition coming from the operator,” Price-Jones says.
And so the fact that it’s hosted by the mobile operator is a key strength of the offering. “The solutions that provide this sort of convergence today are CPE-based, and that can be very, very inefficient for the enterprise in terms of the routing of traffic… because the calls end up being physically ‘tromboned’ around the network, and this is very inefficient not just from a transmission path point of view, but actually from a cost point of view—because what you tend to find is you have a call that would normally be a call towards a fixed line extension in the enterprise, and which would then just terminate in that enterprise, is actually then bounced off to the mobile network,” Price-Jones says.
Instead, with an operator-hosted solution, Price-Jones says, not only can the operator guarantee quality of service, but the call can be routed more efficiently and directly to the correct termination point. “You don’t end up with these call incurring multiple different call legs that each have to be charged separately by different operators,” he says. “So from that point of view it’s a much more efficient solution for the enterprise.”