The enterprise comms arms of Siemens AG and Nokia Corp have announced an alliance in the area of fixed-mobile convergence, with technology integration and cross-selling of each other’s products.
The deal between Siemens Communications Inc and Nokia Enterprise Solutions business unit involves the German group’s recently launched HiPath MobileConnect Enterprise FMC Solution, Nokia’s Eseries of dual-mode business handsets and its Intellisync Device Management software.
FMC generically refers to the ability for cellular voice traffic to be re-routed over a fixed-line connection, usually via a WiFi router, enabling cost savings as well as the convenience of one-number reachability. When out and about a corporate mobile works over the cellular network as usual, while in the office the same number can be used, but the handset takes on the characteristics of a cordless wireline phone.
There are two flavors of FMC. The carrier version is where a telco enables individuals or businesses to route their mobile calls onto a fixed line. This can be done either via Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) technology for tunneling GSM traffic via a WiFi router through to a UMA Network Controller in the carrier’s network, or simply by using a micro-base station known as a picocell (for business environments) or femtocell (for residential), in which case the case the tunnelling technology is optional.
Enterprise FMC, on the other hand, is where the corporation itself hosts the technology on its premises. It is generally a form of PBX extension, i.e. the mobile phone being treated as an extension on the corporate PBX, with the ability for calls to be forwarded to it when they were made on the fixed-line number, but now that WLAN is becoming more pervasive in enterprise, the dual-mode phone is starting to appear as an integral part of many enterprise FMC offerings.
The Eseries phones were already certified for working on the MobileConnect platform, which involves SIP client software on the handsets and server software sitting in the corporate network on an appliance. As part of the alliance, Nokia said it will now market and recommend MobileConnect, while Siemens is to become a reseller of the enterprise side of the Intellisync portfolio.
What’s interesting about MobileConnect is that, since Munich-based Siemens is not the heavy hitter in the global IP PBX market that, say, Avaya, Nortel or Cisco are, it deliberately developed the offering to be heterogeneous, working on any IP PBX.
This is equally true on the WLAN side, since though it has the portfolio from its Chantry acquisition a couple of years back, it is far from being a frontrunner against the likes of Cisco, Symbol (now Motorola), Trapeze or Aruba, and so MobileConnect is designed to run on any of these vendors’ products. Admittedly, on day one it was certified to work on Siemens’ high-end IP PBX, the HiPath 8000, and on the Chantry WLAN kit, now called the HiPath Wireless Platform, but a clear intention to take it heterogeneous was stated from the outset.
The deal with Nokia puts that into even clearer perspective, as the Espoo, Finland-based equipment vendor has affirmed repeatedly that its strategy for enterprise FMC is to stay out of the IP PBX market and integrate its handsets with all the leading players’ kit for the purpose. Indeed, this is why it shunned a merger of Enterprise Solutions with Siemens Communications, even though it is currently doing exactly that on the carrier networking side to form Nokia Siemens Networks.