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For the Enterprise, It Boils Down to Costs

Enterprises are turning to third parties to help them implement VoIP
and reduce expenses, increasing productivity in the process.

Wireless carriers for a long time have known their highest ARPU customers usually come from the enterprise. They’ve put a lot of feet on the street to reach those users, to varying degrees of success.

Enter some new vendors who can help them further penetrate the enterprise – or swoop in and grab those customers with lower-cost alternatives, depending on who you talk to. Many times, they’re offering ways to help enterprises deploy dual-mode services, so workers can use Wi-Fi on campus and wide area cellular away from the campus.

But not all Wi-Fi phones are created equal. How Wi-Fi in the phone can be used varies based on the phone itself, what technical capabilities it possesses, and in some cases, what the carrier allows, notes Avi Greengart, principal analyst/mobile devices at Current Analysis. In other words, they’re not all built for easy-to-use voice services.

Still, voice over Wi-Fi is part of the solution for enterprises. It started in earnest in health care because doctors, nurses and staff needed immediate communication, including automatic handoffs and indoor coverage. But it is moving more out of niche markets and into the mainstream.

DiVitas offers an MMC solution that consists of a Mobile Convergence Appliance (MCA) deployed inside an enterprise and a Mobile Convergence Client (MCC) running on handsets such as Nokia Eseries business devices based on S60 software on the Symbian OS. DiVitas says its MMC solution mobilizes applications such as voice, presence, e-mail, PBX desk phone functions and others over any network, regardless of the technology, and it expands mobility beyond the so-called road warriors to include corridor warriors.

Khuller: Focuses
on reducing costs.

When it comes to enterprises, one of their main concerns is reducing the overall costs of their cellular services. But companies typically don’t come to DiVitas and say, “We want dual-mode phones.” Instead, “they look at decreasing their costs,” says DiVitas CEO and co-founder Vivek Khuller.

That’s why DiVitas has tailored its approach. Instead of saying, “I can make your company more productive,” the more meaningful story is promising to reduce their costs. “We go into companies and we talk about the cost issue upfront because that is more easy for people to relate to,” he says.

Consider most people’s personal lives. When outside the office, most people carry a cell phone so they can reach friends and family, and they can be reached. Why should it be any different inside the office? Despite the wide adoption of wireless phones, most workers still are relegated to desk phones. The salespeople and senior executives are the ones who get the mobile phones. “We take mobility for granted,” Khuller says. “We are not as mobile as we could be at work.”

Most major handset manufacturers offer dual-mode phones, but carriers have not done as good a job as they could to market the devices, Khuller says.

“Companies like ours are basically making these devices a lot more useful,” he says. DiVitas has more than 20 deployed enterprise customers.

DiVitas in some ways competes with wireless carriers and PBX companies and partners with them as well. The large percentage of workers that still are not wireless represents a massive opportunity for carriers that DiVitas can help them address, Khuller says.

Of course, DiVitas is not alone in its quest. Plenty of other companies, including some traditionally large infrastructure suppliers, are competitors or quasi-competitors. Some names that pop up are Avaya, NewStep Networks, Nortel, Siemens and Tango.

Craig Mathias, founder of Farpoint Group, says companies like DiVitas fall into the enterprise-centric category of convergence as opposed to the carrier-centric version. “We are in the very early days of enterprise-centric convergence,” he says.

Aruba Networks is another one of those enterprise-centric vendors whose approach is to put the enterprise in full control over the fixed mobile convergence (FMC) solution, according to Michael Tennefoss, head of strategic marketing at Aruba.

Aruba’s system, for example, will detect when a user is talking on a phone, walking out of a building at the edge of the LAN and needs to switch from Wi-Fi to cellular as he or she continues to a car. If an employee is traveling throughout Europe, the phone is programmed to know, based on its location, whether it should initiate a call through the cellular network or through the local office. The same holds true if the user is in a location where cellular is the only available network. Aruba also has developed algorithms to improve the battery life in phones so that it isn’t immediately drained from constantly looking for Wi-Fi access, he adds.

Aruba’s system knows when the user is at the edge of the WLAN, and it uses identity-based security, where the users are assigned specific policies that follow them wherever they go. The idea is for a company to securely do anything remotely that they would do locally, whether it’s from a hotel or during an emergency.
The transition between cellular and Wi-Fi is based on policies that the enterprise sets, and the policies are going to be much different if the enterprise sets them versus a cellular carrier, Tennefoss notes.

FMC is all about extending mobility to mobile workers. “It’s what we call application continuity,” Tennefoss says. “There should be continuity of that application as you move.”

Source:  For the Enterprise, It Boils Down to Costs, By Monica Alleven, WirelessWeek - September 15, 2007

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