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VoIP Phone Services Speed Adoption of Fixed-Mobile Convergence

At the most recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, executives from wireless phone companies mingled with power users and device manufacturers. Attendees remarked how a slowing global economy put even more demands on their businesses, pressed by customers who wanted to replace big travel budgets with effective collaboration solutions. According to press coverage of the week-long event, vendors used Barcelona as a backdrop to unveil the latest tools and technologies for this years communications buzzword: "fixed-mobile convergence."

A World of Convergence

For the first time, business users understand voice as a feature of a communications platform, not just as a service. Conference call participants prefer to view presenters slides on a screen while enjoying live interaction over the phone. Video chat users and telepresence suite owners prefer viewing body language over transcontinental connections, but are equally happy to get a client on the phone to close a sale. And, most of all, end users no longer make the distinction between the VoIP phone service in their office and the 3G or 4G platform that powers their mobile devices.

CIOs and IT department managers find themselves wrestling with the demands of end users who believe that they can be more effective and responsive with help from convergence devices. Sales professionals especially enjoy the prospect of having a single contact number that follows them from bedside to treadmill to office to dinner table. The "one number" aspect of "fixed-mobile convergence" has attracted users to VoIP phone services for over a decade. However, leaps in new technology now offer users the ability to coordinate all of their communications through a single, mobile device.

VoIP Phone Services Become Embedded in New Hybrid Handsets
VoIP-capable wireless handsets have evolved because consumers throughout the world have embraced Wi-Fi in their homes and in their offices. In the early days of wireless networking, large companies and universities often banned the technology from their campuses. Fears of leaky networks and intellectual property theft often outweighed the benefits of fast, easy connections. Meanwhile, sales and public safety professionals at the forefront of the wireless phone trend made it acceptable to start conducting business over cellular networks.

Both types of networking evolved, embraced by end users, until a point at which business and casual users became so comfortable with wireless data that they started demanding it everywhere. With VoIP phone services requiring much less bandwidth with each generation of software tools, dedicated devices could start handling phone calls as data over Wi-Fi networks. Now that cell towers equipped with 3G and 4G transmitters can handle comparable amounts of long range data at high speeds, some users now route calls over any network: at home, at work, or on the road.

Many VoIP service providers have started using industry standard protocols that can be integrated easily into a variety of mobile devices. Wireless companies have launched comprehensive new data plans for customers that measure their usage in MB instead of in minutes. And handset manufacturers are preparing for fixed-mobile convergence with new products that make it easier for network administrators to consolidate all communications over a single data connection. All that remains, according to at least one analyst, is figure out how to keep end users from losing their devices.


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