Monday, November 13, 2006


Recently Mark Newman, the chief research officer at Informa, wrote a piece titled “Price bundles and ‘cheap’ mobile steal FMC’s thunder”. This got me thinking, is UMA a technology for “FMC” or “FMS”?

As with all these things, it depends on your definition. And often the definition depends on your perspective (fixed operator, wireless operator, MVNO, alternative provider).

Fixed-Mobile Converge (FMC), literally defined, means converging the services, devices and networks into a single, common application architecture. FMC means getting (and delivering) the same services over the fixed network as over the mobile network. This is more the vision of integrated operators with both fixed and mobile assets (Telecom Italia, Orange/FR, Deutsche Telecom). Quite frankly, this is the vision of IMS.

Fixed-to-mobile substitution (FMS) is much more of a service strategy/vision. The idea is to provide sufficient incentives to subscribers to stop using their fixed line phones and to begin using their mobile phones (thus “substituting” usage from fixed to mobile). FMS is being pursued in earnest by stand-alone mobile operators like T-Mobile US, Orange/UK, and O2/DE.

So where does UMA fit?

Operators deploying UMA are offering “flat rate” calling packages when in the home or office. These flat rate plans are designed to give subscribers the incentive to use their mobile phones for all calling services. Since UMA is targeting the home and office, where most fixed line calling happens, it’s fair to say that UMA is a technology approach for FMS.

But for operators like Telecom Italia/TIM, Telia Sonera, and Orange/France Telecom, UMA is being used as the technology for delivering mobile services over the fixed (broadband) network. In these cases, UMA is first technology to cross the FMC bridge, and because UMA can be used to deliver IMS services/applications, it can be viewed as the first viable FMC technology.

The reality is that UMA is used for both FMC and FMS services depending on the operator and their business/market requirements.

For FMS, there are competing approaches, the cellular “homezone” being a popular one. Comparing UMA to homezones offers several pros and cons based on market and business issues in the region.

For FMC, there is talk about the future VCC specification being able to bridge the fixed and mobile networks together. UMA can deliver mobile services of the fixed (broadband) network today and offers several other advantages.

One thing is clear, UMA is for mobile operators (integrated or stand-alone). How they use it (for FMC or FMS) depends on market and business requirements.

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