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Archive for the ‘FMC’ Category

ITExpo: BYOD – The New Mobile Enterprise

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

If you are going to ITExpo West 2012 in Austin, make sure you attend my panel on this topic at 1:30 pm on Wednesday, October 3rd.

The panelists are Jeanette Lee of Ruckus Wireless, Ed Wright of ShoreTel and John Cash of RIM.

The pitch for the panel is:

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has been in full swing for a couple of years now, and there’s no going back. Enterprises have adopted a policy of allowing users to use their own devices to access corporate networks and resources. With it comes the cost savings of not having to purchase as many mobile devices, and user satisfaction increases when they are able to choose their preferred devices and providers (and avoid having to carry multiple devices). But the benefits don’t come without challenges — the user experience must be preserved, security policies must accommodate these multiple devices and operating systems, and IT has to content with managing applications and access across different platforms. This session looks at what businesses can do to mitigate risks and ensure performance while still giving your users the device freedom they demand.

ITExpo East 2011: NGC-02 “The Next Generation of Voice over WLAN”

Monday, January 24th, 2011

I will be moderating this panel at IT Expo in Miami on February 2nd at 10:00 am.

Voice over WLAN has been deployed in enterprise applications for years, but has yet to reach mainstream adoption (beyond vertical markets). With technologies like mobile UC, 802.11n, fixed-mobile convergence and VoIP for smartphones raising awareness/demand, there are a number of vendors poised to address market needs by introducing new and innovative devices. This session will look at what industries have already adopted VoWLAN and why – and what benefits they have achieved, as well as the technology trends that make VoWLAN possible.

The panelists are:

  • Russell Knister, Sr. Director, Business Development & Product Marketing, Motorola Solutions
  • Ben Guderian, VP Applications and Ecosystem, Polycom
  • Carlos Torales, Cisco Systems, Inc.

All three of these companies have a venerable history in enterprise Wi-Fi phones; the two original pioneers of enterprise Voice over Wireless LAN were Symbol and Spectralink, which Motorola and Polycom acquired respectively in 2006 and 2007. Cisco announced a Wi-Fi handset (the 7920) to complement their Cisco CallManager in 2003. But the category has obstinately remained a niche for almost a decade.

It has been clear from the outset that cell phones would get Wi-Fi, and it would be redundant to have dedicated Wi-Fi phones. And of course, now that has come to pass. The advent of the iPhone with Wi-Fi in 2007 subdued the objections of the wireless carriers to Wi-Fi and knocked the phone OEMs off the fence. By 2010 you couldn’t really call a phone without Wi-Fi a smartphone, and feature phones aren’t far behind.

So this session will be very interesting, answering questions about why enterprise voice over Wi-Fi has been so confined, and why that will no longer be the case.

Femtocell pricing chutzpah

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

It’s like buying an airplane ticket then getting charged extra to get on the plane.

The cellular companies want you to buy cellular service then pay extra to get signal coverage. Gizmodo has a coolly reasoned analysis.

AT&T Wireless is doing the standard telco thing here, conflating pricing for different services. It is sweetening the monthly charge option for femtocells by offering unlimited calling. A more honest pricing scheme would be to provide femtocells free to anybody who has coverage problem, and to offer the femtocell/unlimited calling option as a separate product. Come to think of it, this is probably how AT&T really plans for it to work: if a customer calls to cancel service because of poor coverage, I expect AT&T will offer a free femtocell as a retention incentive.

It is ironic that this issue is coming up at the same time as the wireless carriers are up in arms about the FCC’s new network neutrality initiative. Now that smartphones all have Wi-Fi, if the handsets were truly open we could use our home Wi-Fi signal to get data and voice services from alternative providers when we were at home. No need for femtocells. (T-Mobile@Home is a closed-network version of this.)

Presumably something like this is on the roadmap for Google Voice, which is one of the scenarios that causes the MNOs to fight network neutrality tooth and nail.

Skype for iPhone

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Well, that last post on the likely deficiencies of VoIP on iPhones may turn out to have been overly pessimistic. It looks as though Hell is beginning to freeze over. Skype is now running on iPhones over the Wi-Fi connection, and for a new release it’s running relatively well. AT&T deserves props for letting it happen – unlike T-Mobile, which isn’t letting it happen and therefore deserves whatever the opposite of props is.

6 hours after it was released Skype became the highest-volume download on Apple’s AppStore. In keeping with Skype’s reputation for ease of use, it downloads and installs with no problems, though as one expects with first revisions it has some bugs.

My brief experience with it has included several crashes – twice when I hung up a call and once when a calendar alarm went off in the middle of a call. Another interesting quirk is that when I called a friend on a PC Skype client from my iPhone, I heard him answer twice, about 3 seconds apart. Presumably a revision will be out soon to fix these problems.

Other quirky behaviour is a by-product of the iPhone architecture rather than bugs, and will have to be fixed with changes to the way the iPhone works. The biggest issue of this kind is that it is relatively hard to receive calls, since the Skype application has to be running in the foreground to receive a call. This is because the iPhone architecture preserves battery life by not allowing programs to run in the background.

Similar system design characteristics mean that when a cellular call comes in a Skype call in progress is instantly bumped off rather than offering the usual call waiting options. I couldn’t get my Bluetooth headset to work with Skype, so either it can’t be done, or the method to do it doesn’t reach Skype’s exemplary ease of use standards.

Now for the good news. It’s free. It’s free to call from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. And the sound quality is very good for a cell phone, even though the codec is only G.729. I expect future revisions to add SILK wideband audio support to deliver sound quality better than anything ever heard on a cell phone before. The chat works beautifully, and it is synchronized with the chat window on your PC, so everything typed by either party appears on both your iPhone and PC screen, with less than a second of lag.

After a half-hour Skype to Skype conversation on the iPhone I looked at my AT&T bill. No voice minutes and no data minutes had been charged, so there appear to be no gotchas in that department. A friend used an iPod Touch to make Skype Wi-Fi calls from an airport hot-spot in Germany – he reports the call quality was fine.

The New York Times review is here

AT&T to deploy Voice over Wi-Fi on iPhones

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Don’t get too excited by Apple’s announcement of a Voice over IP service on the iPhone 3.0. It strains credulity that AT&T would open up the iPhone to work on third party VoIP networks, so presumably the iPhone’s VoIP service will be locked down to AT&T.

AT&T has a large network of Wi-Fi hotspots where iPhone users can get free Wi-Fi service. The iPhone VoIP announcement indicates that AT&T may be rolling out voice over Wi-Fi service for the iPhone. It will probably be SIP, rather than UMA, the technology that T-Mobile uses for this type of service. It is likely to be based on some flavor of IMS, especially since AT&T has recently been rumored to be spinning up its IMS efforts for its U-verse service, which happens to include VoIP. AT&T is talking about a June launch.

An advantage of the SIP flavor of Voice over Wi-Fi is that unlike UMA it can theoretically negotiate any codec, allowing HD Voice conversations between subscribers when they are both on Wi-Fi; wouldn’t that be great? The reference to the “Voice over IP service” in the announcement is too cryptic to determine what’s involved. It may not even include seamless roaming of a call between the cellular and Wi-Fi networks (VCC).

AT&T has several Wi-Fi smartphones in addition to the iPhone. They are mostly based on Windows Mobile, so they can probably be enabled for this service with a software download. The same goes for Blackberries. Actually, RIM may be ahead of the game, since it already has FMC products in the field with T-Mobile, albeit on UMA rather than SIP, while Windows Mobile phones are generally ill-suited to VoIP.

DiVitas partners with Avaya

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Last week Avaya announced that it has chosen DiVitas as its preferred partner for mobile unified communications (UC). The companies will do joint marketing and cross-training of their sales forces in a reference sale mode. This is huge for DiVitas because it opens Avaya’s distribution channel to it. According to Phil Klotzkin, Avaya’s senior manager for UC, this channel supplies 20% of the business phone systems world-wide.

The DiVitas solution plugs a small but important gap in Avaya’s product line. Avaya already has a mobile unified communications solution, called one-X Mobile.

One-X Mobile extends PBX features to cell phones, notably the ability to give out a single number that rings on both your cell phone and your desk phone; the ability to do PBX-related actions like 4 digit dialing and transfers; visual voicemail; and the ability to move a call in progress between the cell-phone and the desk phone.

The DiVitas product offers a comparable solution set, but goes beyond one-X Mobile with Wi-Fi voice and a range of social networking features including IM and Presence. Because it uses Wi-Fi, the DiVitas solution requires a dual-mode handset. Virtually all new smartphones are dual-mode, but with the exception of Nokia’s Eseries and Nseries, few of them are well suited to voice over Wi-Fi. One-X Mobile uses the cellular voice channel rather than Wi-Fi, so it runs on a wide variety of phones.

For IM related features both DiVitas and Avaya’s desktop Integrated Presence Server use open source Jabber software. The two will be integrated with each other by the end of the year.

DiVitas/Avaya system diagram

For now the DiVitas handset software (client) is not integrated with the one-X Mobile handset software – the customer will choose one or the other for each user. The DiVitas client and the one-X Mobile client will each retain their different look and feel, and the one-X Mobile client will continue to run on single-mode phones and the DiVitas client on dual-mode.

In a recent interview, Klotzkin said that one-X Mobile is sufficient for most customers, but that there are a few for which dual-mode functionality is essential. Partnering with DiVitas enables Avaya to satisfy those customer needs. One such customer is CSX, the freight company. Some of its far-flung operations are in areas with no cellular coverage; Wi-Fi solves this problem. Avaya has been working with CSX on dual-mode solutions since 2004, when Avaya, Motorola and Proxim introduced the very first dual-mode system.

According to Vivek Khuller, CEO of DiVitas, “CSX has been working with Avaya since the earliest days of dual-mode telephony, and they are finally satisfied. It’s an important accomplishment for both our companies.”

Because the DiVitas solution uses smart-phones CSX gets a useful side benefit, namely that it can run proprietary application software on the phones, eliminating the need for its employees to carry a laptop. The other side benefit is that even in areas of cellular coverage the Wi-Fi connection can be used to save on cellular minutes.

So everybody gains. Avaya plugs a troublesome gap in its product line; DiVitas gets an excellent distribution channel; the Avaya channel adds a fully supported best-of-breed solution to its portfolio; and end users get the familiarity of Avaya with the handset technology of Nokia and the DiVitas software that weaves them together into a user-friendly package.

Some holiday browsing

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

If you are interested in Enterprise FMC, or Mobile Unified Communications as it is now called, you will find this presentation and podcast from Brian Riggs of Current Analysis gives an informative overview of the state of the art.

A not so perfect Storm

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

The Verizon Storm may be heading for failure in more than one way. A raft of reviewers, led by David Pogue of the New York Times are trashing its usability. This means that even with the marketing might of Verizon behind it it may not fulfill its goal of being a bulwark against the iPhone in the enterprise.

But the Storm was an experiment in another way by Verizon. The other three major American mobile network operators have capitulated to Wi-Fi in smartphones. Against the new conventional wisdom, Verizon decided to launch a new flagship smartphone without Wi-Fi. The Storm looks like a trial balloon to see whether Wi-Fi is optional in modern smartphones. If the Storm is a success, it will demonstrate that it is possible to have credible business smartphones without Wi-Fi. But if it turns out to be a flop because of other factors, it will not be a proof point for Wi-Fi either way.

But Wi-Fi is a closed issue by now for all the network operators, perhaps even including Verizon. Phones have lead times of the order of a year or so, and controversies active back then may now be resolved. Verizon covered its bets by launching three other smartphones around the same time as the Storm, all with Wi-Fi (HTC Touch Pro, Samsung Omnia, Samsung Saga).

Before its launch, AT&T hoped that the iPhone would stimulate use of the cellular data network. It succeeded in this, so far beyond AT&T’s hopes that it revealed a potential problem with the concept of 3G (and 4G) data. The network slows to a crawl if enough subscribers use data intensively in small areas like airports and conferences. Mobile network operators used to fear that if phones had Wi-Fi subscribers would use it instead of the cellular data network, causing a revenue leak. AT&T solved that problem with the iPhone by making a subscription to the data service obligatory. T-Mobile followed suit with the Google phone. So no revenue leak. With the data subscription in hand, Wi-Fi is a good thing for the network operators because it offloads the 3G network. In residences and businesses all the data that goes through Wi-Fi is a reduction in the potential load on the network. In other words, a savings in infrastructure investment, which translates to profit. This may be some of the thinking behind AT&T’s recent acquisition of Wayport. The bandwidth acquired with Wayport offloads the AT&T network relatively cheaply. AT&T’s enthusiasm for Wi-Fi is such that it is selling some new Wi-Fi phones without requiring a data subscription.

The enterprise market is one that mobile network operators have long neglected. It is small relative to the consumer market, and harder to fit into a one-size-fits-all model. Even so, in these times of scraping for revenue in every corner, and with the steady rise of the Blackberry, the network operators are taking a serious look at the enterprise market.

The device manufacturers are way ahead of the network operators on this issue: the iPhone now comes with a lot of enterprise readiness Kool-Aid; Windows Mobile makes manageability representations, as does Nokia with its Eseries handsets. RIM, the current king of the enterprise smartphone vendors also pitches its IT-friendliness.

Wi-Fi in smartphones has benefits and drawbacks for enterprises. One benefit is that you have another smart device on the corporate LAN to enhance productivity. A drawback is that you have another smart device on the corporate LAN ripe for viruses and other security breaches. But that issue is mitigated to some extent if smartphones don’t have Wi-Fi. So it’s arguable that the Storm may be more enterprise-friendly as a result of its lack of Wi-Fi. Again, if the Storm becomes a hit in enterprises that argument will turn out to hold water. If the Storm is a flop for other reasons, we still won’t know, and it will have failed as a trial balloon for Wi-Fi-less enterprise smartphones.

Counterpath’s new strategy

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Counterpath has an enviable incumbency in the PC soft-phone market. Their eyeBeam soft phone is licensed by numerous service providers and PBX manufacturers. But the soft phone business is not enormous, so Counterpath is looking to use its leadership in the soft phone business as a beachhead into the fixed-mobile convergence space. Fixed-mobile convergence comes in two flavors: service provider and enterprise. So last year Counterpath made three acquisitions to fill in the spaces of a two by two matrix, with enterprise and service provider on one axis, and client software and mobility controller server software on the other.

Counterpath bought FirstHand for its Enterprise Mobility Gateway (EMG) and Bridgeport Networks for its service provider Network Convergence Gateway (NCG). It already had client software for service providers covered with its eyeBeam software. It bought NewHeights for its enterprise client software, a softphone with PBX features to complement the more consumer-oriented eyeBeam phone. These two soft phones have already been integrated by Counterpath into their new Bria softphone. It remains a challenge to get the soft phones and the two gateways working together seamlessly. It will also be a challenge to gain market share in the mobility gateway market.

Most mobility gateway vendors tend to focus on either service provider or enterprise customers, but Counterpath is not unique in having gateway devices for both. Tango Networks claims this as the differentiating feature of their solution; Tango’s two devices were designed from the outset to work together and complement each other. Counterpath must integrate two products with independent pedigrees. The NCG that came from Bridgeport is a pre-IMS solution. When a call comes in for a cell phone, the NCG can decide whether to ring the cell phone, a soft phone on a PC or both. The EMG that came from FirstHand is an enterprise mobility controller similar to RIM’s Ascendent product.

Neither of the two Gateways provides “true” FMC, namely the ability to run a call over Wi-Fi to a dual mode cell phone; this is presumably in the near future. The NCG fields calls to a cell phone number and directs them to a PC in the enterprise, while the EMG fields calls to the PBX and can route them to a 3G cellphone via a VoIP connection. What’s interesting about this particular solution is that it uses the 3G data connection for the VoIP call, rather than using the regular cellular voice connection. According to Counterpath the QoS (latency, jitter, packet loss) on the 3G data connection provides equivalent call quality to a cellular voice connection.

Self-configuring Femtocells

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Rethink Wireless reports that picoChip has added cognitive capabilities to their femtocells. Related “sniffing” technology is used in White Spaces radios and in the UNII-2 band by Wi-Fi. The idea is to check to see how the spectrum is currently being used, and to arrange matters to interfere as little as possible. With White Spaces and Wi-Fi the sniffing is used to avoid spectrum occupied by a primary user. PicoChip uses it to create self configuring networks:

As well has handling configuration, synchronization and hand-off – and reporting metrics on the cell to help network planning – the sniff function will support entirely self-organizing networks of the type Vodafone has outlined in recent presentations. Currently, most of the interference management these require are handled in different ways by the femtocell OEMs, but each has its own proprietary algorithms, making mixed-vendor networks difficult. The picoChip designs also allow the femto silicon to run the manufacturer specific code.