Sunday, October 04, 2009

Smartphones, 4G, IP, and IMS – Part I: Toward a Fully Mobile Enterprise Communications System

I have not been blogging much lately, and I plan to change that. I am going to do that by writing a series of shorter blog entries.

There are four big forces for change in the mobile market now:

  1. Smartphones have broken out of the PIM-oriented business niche
  2. 4G networks, WiMAX and LTE, are coming to market
  3. IP voice has taken over enterprise telephony
  4. The ideas of IMS, if not implementations of IMS, are permeating new communications products

My next several blog entries will look at the interplay between these forces and the opportunities they open up: 4G, with or without full implementations of IMS, mixing IP communication with mobile communication, the way business communication systems are, finally, co-evolving with mobile communication, etc.

The reason I will be focusing on the interaction between these forces is that this is where new opportunities are created, and new entry portals into existing markets with entrenched vendors open up.

For example, most people think of VoIP phones in two distinct ways: VoIP applications for smartphones, which are mainly used for international toll-bypass, and VoIP desk phones for businesses.

What's the problem here? In each case, these products have reached some natural limitations: Mobile VoIP as toll bypass has hit an upper bound on value – it's not much more valuable than a calling card. And VoIP business phones are becoming the second phone – the place where you get cold calls, the thing you leave on do-not-disturb, the back-up.

Can we find a way out of these limitations in the four forces that are driving change? Let's see how each affects a possible solution:

  1. The new smartphones and smartphone software platforms enable richer and more integrated mobile VoIP solutions than the crude Java ME (J2ME) applications for mobile VoIP. You can transform the handset into a mobile enterprise phone, and directly replace desk phones.
  2. 4G networks enable enterprise communication to become an over-the-top (OTT) service. There is no longer any difference between being on-premises and off-premises.
  3. Now that you can extend IP communication to users on the go, there is no longer a need for crude “two stage dialing” to “log in” to a PBX while you are on the go. It's an all-IP world.
  4. An IP-PBX being used like an OTT telephone service is IMS-like in many of the features it delivers, but does not depend on IMS in the mobile network.

This is one kind of innovation made possible by the combination of these Four Forces. In future posts, I will explore more basic innovations, and the details of some of these innovations.

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