Fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) is hot. But, this week, one vendor touted its idea of "mobile-to-mobile convergence," technology that does not require fixed capabilities to mobilize the workforce.
DiVitas Networks this week unveiled its very first product, a solution the vendor is labeling "mobile-to-mobile convergence" (MMC) meaning it can converge mobile devices without the need for a fixed capability, like a PBX or even a desk phone.
DiVitas, based in Mountain View, Calif., released its Mobile Convergence Appliance (MCA), which is deployed inside the enterprise, and the Mobile Convergence Client (MCC), which is embedded in mobile devices and handsets. DiVitas founder, president and CEO Vivek Khuller said the solution is network-, device- and PBX-agnostic and brings total mobility under the complete control of enterprise IT. He added that it breaks down several key mobility barriers, including cost, control and complexity, while also allowing enterprises to mobilize both road and corridor warriors.
"No one is at their desk anymore," Khuller said. DiVitas' solution mobilizes the desk phone to the existing cell phone, he said, and can use both Wi-Fi and cellular networks. Essentially, cell phone numbers and work phone numbers can coexist on the same device, which can hand off seamlessly between Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
"I've identified convergence as the most important trend in wireless this year," said Farpoint Group's Craig Mathias. "This is going to be gigantic."
Mathias said some carriers are starting to pick up on convergence and have begun offering it, but in many cases, as with DiVitas, an enterprise can deploy and manage convergence itself.
"This is a very important direction," he said.
Yankee Group senior vice president Zeus Kerravala agreed that being able to switch between cellular and Wi-Fi networks is a major catalyst for the future of mobility.
"Carrying a device that roams seamlessly between cellular and Wi-Fi networks, is manageable by internal IT staff, and integrates with enterprise applications is key to increasing this phenomenon of global mobile communications," Kerravala said.
He added that a solution like DiVitas' fills a productivity void he refers to as "anywhere times," gaps in time where users can't be reached at a fixed location.
"Most people think enterprise mobility is wireless LANs and cell phones," he said. "To me, the real challenge for enterprises is to improve user productivity when a user is neither at home, [in the] office nor [at] any other fixed location. I call these 'anywhere times' -- commuting, waiting in an airport, in line at the DMV … walking to lunch. What DiVitas does in their solution closes the productivity gap in these anywhere times. True enterprise anywhere mobility really hasn't been addressed."
After completing a six-month DiVitas trial, David Sproul, manager of emerging technologies and IT capital projects at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center said that the center is on its way to delivering a seamless mobile experience to its staff.
"About 10 years ago, we started looking for a solution that would bridge our cellular and internal Wi-Fi networks," Sproul said. "We wanted to save mobile-communication costs; minimize the number of devices our physicians, nurses and staff carry; and provide seamless roaming from Wi-Fi to cellular without worrying about dropping calls."
DiVitas works with existing PBX-based voice systems or in a standalone configuration; interoperates with WAN infrastructure; supports dual-mode devices, Wi-Fi-only phones, cellular-only phones and softphones; provides seamless access to enterprise applications such as email, presence, IM, and CRM over any network; and lets an enterprise mobilize all workers while retaining complete control.
"Today, more than 50% of enterprise workers lack a mobile solution, and this has an impact on revenue, profits and competitiveness," Sproul said. "DiVitas enables companies to mobilize every worker with a unified communications solution that works over any network -- internal Wi-Fi, cellular or hot spot -- at costs comparable to a traditional desk-phone system. Every minute spent calling or messaging over a Wi-Fi network is one less minute spent on cellular service, which can be 10 times the cost of landline service. Enterprises can quickly save tens of thousands of dollars by going with the DiVitas solution."
The DiVitas MCA is installed on-premises and allows enterprises to control and manage mobile devices as they roam among disparate wireless networks. The MCC is a software client on the mobile devices that communicates with the MCA. It provides a multi-mode communications interface for ease of use with applications such as voice, video, IM, voicemail and presence. The MCC client can be downloaded over the air.
Khuller said seamless mobile communications should be available to all enterprise workers, not just road warriors like salespeople or executives. There is a new breed of so-called corridor warriors who can benefit from -- and become more productive with -- mobile capabilities. Office assistants, engineers and other employees who are on the go within the building and never at a desk can remain connected.
"You do not need a traditional telephone system in your building anymore," he said. "The desktop phone is doomed."
Kerravala added: "In theory, the user doesn't need a desk phone."
Right now, the DiVitas client runs on certain Windows Mobile devices, and DiVitas is planning to add Symbian and Linux running devices into the mix. The DiVitas model puts the power back into the enterprise's hands by eliminating the use of personal cell phones for business-related communications, Khuller said.
"Cellular phones are becoming a corporate buy, not a personal buy," Mathias said, adding that a company that pays for cellular plans for employees will see quick cost-savings when devices can also operate on the Wi-Fi network either in the office or at a hot spot.
Along with ROI that companies can achieve through boosted productivity, decreasing the use of cellular minutes can also realize cost savings, Kerravala said.
"Cell minutes are an issue," he said. "Not that big here, but in Europe, where country-by-country roaming is pricey, it can have a significant impact."