VoWiFi/IP/Cellular Convergence Trials Begin at BellSouth

BellSouth announced this week that it was beginning market trials of a new solution that fully integrates IP, Cellular and WiFi communications.

The initial trial is being done in Atlanta at the office of advertising firm Grey Worldwide, and is intended to offer users one number/one voicemail box for all their communications. The trial involves the use of a converged WiFi/Cellular/VoIP device that will connect with the company’s WLAN, IP network or an external cellular network depending on the location of the user.

The so called seamless mobility trial is part of a joint initiative between BellSouth and Cingular to further develop wireless and wireline communications. The partnership includes R&D work as well joint sales and marketing efforts by the two firms.

“Wireless is becoming a more critical part of business communications infrastructure every day and innovative solutions that address these growing needs will be the future winners in the marketplace,” said Keith Cowan, vice president, marketing and product management, BellSouth in a statement. “The technology BellSouth is trialing allows conversations to be seamless and simple, whether in the car, on the business campus, or at the desk.”

Info-Tech Research analyst Carmi Levi sees the new BellSouth trial as one of the earliest efforts by a carrier to offer a fully-packaged, converged service. In Levy’s view, until now, the industry has seen only simple cost-driven VoIP announcements where voice traffic is merely moved onto a data network.

“This takes the technology to that critical next level and offers a glimpse of the kind of converged services that represent the future of messaging,” Levy told EnterpriseVoIPplanet.com. “The first wave of simple offerings helped build the foundation of VoIP. This offering from BellSouth is the first of many that will build on that foundation, and shows us the kinds of new and value-added uses that VoIP will add to our telephony landscape.”

“Offerings like BellSouth’s exemplify the promise that VoIP holds to truly change the way all messaging is implemented and managed, and how it looks and works when it is in the hands of the end-user,” Levy added.

There may, however, be a few small caveats that potential end users need to consider about such a converged offering. Levy suggests that support protocols will need to be firmly established within any service level agreement between BellSouth and its customers.

“Who does an end-user call if the phone stops working? Sure, BellSouth provides the seamless service. But it still relies at least partially on the corporate LAN or WAN,” Levy said. “If the source of the failure or outage is not clear, longer resolution times for voice-related incidents may be the result. This needs to be negotiated up front, then communicated clearly and frequently via the usual help desk communication channels.”

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