Thursday, April 29, 2010

Guest Blogger Shannon Lucas of T-Mobile on MVS + UMA

I talk to customers every day and ask them to tell me what's on their wishlist to meet their technology and communication needs. Just yesterday, I sat in a room with a customer who spoke to me about how he can't wait for the day when all the networks converge; when users have one device that seamlessly moves back and forth between Wi-Fi and next generation mobile networks.

I sat there with a knowing smile, just nodding, because the solution that I was about to propose addresses all of his needs and then some.
The RIM Mobile Voice System solution with T-Mobile's UMA BlackBerries can provide the PBX extension that he (and many other companies) is looking for. MVS not only gives users single number reach capabilities, but it also allows users to make on-net international calls, reducing the international long distance spend. UMA allows companies to make Wi-Fi based calls for free, even internationally. Now, they can work together.
After I had gone over the MVS/UMA ROI slide with my customer, I asked if I could move on. He replied, "No. I am in love with this slide."

It really is fun to be able to give customers exactly what they want.

T-Mobile offers Wi-Fi Calling with MobileOffice(SM), an exclusive solution that enables organizations to extend their desktop phone functionality to a mobile device. Customers using Wi-Fi Calling with MobileOffice can now use the BlackBerry(r) Mobile Voice System (MVS) to mobilize PBX systems, bringing office phone features to BlackBerry smartphones. This will further improve productivity and reduce telecom costs, and I'm going to continue to spread the good news.

Read more from Shannon Lucas on this blog.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


This is the week of RIM's big Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES) event in Orlando. Hence the flurry of announcements related to new RIM devices, the new RIM 6.0 OS, and the addition of Wi-Fi calling to the MVS product.

Considering T-Mobile offers a UMA-based 'Wi-Fi Calling' service and offers MVS with 'Wi-Fi calling', there may be some confusion in the market. Is MVS competitive or complementary with UMA? The short answer:

They are complementary solutions.

UMA is the delivery of mobile services over Wi-Fi. With UMA-enabled BlackBerries (in this case), subscribers use their mobile services the same over Wi-Fi as over the GSM/cellular network. UMA offers two specific benefits to the subscriber: improved mobile coverage via Wi-Fi; and lower-cost calling, primarily due to T-Mobile's 'unlimited Wi-Fi Calling' offer for enterprises. We like to say that UMA makes the mobile phone "work better and cost less".

MVS addresses a different problem. The new Wi-Fi calling feature in MVS extends a subscriber's fixed-line PBX extension to their BlackBerry. Personally this isn't something I would want. If I really want someone to get ahold of me, I give out my mobile number. If it's not urgent, I give out my desk phone. But there may be subscribers (or enterprises) that want to push the fixed line onto a BlackBerry. More importantly, I think there are enterprises interested in managing how employees use their mobile phones and how accessable they are on their fixed lines. But I digress...

The point is that both MVS and UMA offer an overlapping benefit: lower cost calling. With UMA, it takes the form of mobile calls over Wi-Fi not using the bucket of minutes assigned to the enterprise. With MVS, it comes by not using the mobile network (and therefore the mobile operator's billing system) and routing calls through the enterprise PBX (and over negotiated fixed line contracts).

Therefore, it is possible to deploy MVS (ie put a PBX extension on a BlackBerry) with or without UMA. And conversely, it's possible to have a UMA-enabled BlackBerry without the MVS client. Ergo - it is also possible to have a BlackBerry with MVS *and* UMA.

For IT managers, what's better? Well, it comes down to what problem is being solved. UMA offers two benefits: lower cost mobile calls and better cellular coverage.

MVS offers at least two benefits: lower cost calls through by routing Wi-Fi calls through the PBX, better management/control of mobile calling and the ability to put a fixed line on the mobile phone.

For mobile operators, it's clear that UMA retains control of the call through the mobile network, where MVS takes Wi-Fi calls off the mobile network and into the fixed-line PBX.

To conclude, MVS and UMA are not competitive, they are complementary technologies, solving different problems for the enterprise.

Smartphones Overtake Feature Phones in US by 2011

Just consider the title of this post: Smartphones will overtake feature phones in the US in a little more than 18 months. That is a truly impressive prediction.

Roger Entner, the SVP of Research with Nielsen's telecom practice recently posted an article explaining why the research company believes that the US market is rapidly moving to smartphones.

What makes this statistic even more impressive is that today (Q2 2010), Nielsen concedes that just 21% of US consumers have smartphones. They are projecting a 30 percentage point swing in phone ownership in the next 18 months.

Personally, I completely believe it. I have likened the jump from feature phone to smartphone in my life to the jump I made from dial-up to DSL 10+ years ago. I remember thinking "Dialup is fine, I don't really do that much on the computer." People would gush about how wornderful DSL was, but concrete benefits (beyond "it's faster") were hard to come by. But once I moved to DSL, I knew at that moment I would never go back to dial-up.

I think it's the same with smartphones. I can never go back to a feature phone. I was at a little soiree this weekend talking with a fried who works at Cisco. He never seems to be at the office.

He whipped out his iPhone and showed me why. Cisco has an internal instant messaging application with an iPhone client. He opened the client, changed his status, and suddenly he was 'working' to his contacts wtihin the company. Then he showed me the WebEx client for the iPhone. He can listen to the conference call while viewing the slides, all from his iPhone. Unless someone walked by his cube, no one would know he wasn't in the office.

The implications are staggering on many dimensions, but since this is a blog about smart Wi-Fi, I'll circle back to the need for coverage, capacity and offload. To actually work from your iPhone, a subscriber needs a strong signal for voice and good throughput for data apps like WebEx .

The cellular network is already straining with 21% of the population using smartphones. Imagine when we get to 50% penetration 18 months from now. Smart Wi-Fi is a critical technology for making the smartphone vision come true.

Monday, April 19, 2010

O2 To Compete With Skype

In an article posted to Fierce Wireless Europe, it appears that O2 UK has developed a new pricing structure for subscribers to make low-cost International calls on their mobile. As reported in the post, O2 will offer subscribers the ability have 'unlimited' (subject to a 5,000 min "fair use" cap) to call one (presumably fixed line) number in one country for just £5/month.

This is a good first step.

Checking O2's International Calling page, this offers significant saving over their published rates, or over their "International Traveler Service" (or ITS) rates, which shows the current retail rate to call the US at £1/minute. Ouch.


In a survey on how consumers in the UK market use mobile VoIP (conducted by Kineto Wireless), the primary use of a mobile VoIP client was to make discount International calls. This makes sense to me. A VoIP client on a smartphone requires the user to decide to launch the application and place a call.

Taking a look at Skype's pricing page, and they offer unlimited calls to any landline in Europe for $7.95/month, or to any of 40 countries around the world for $12.95. [Ed note: No asktrik for 'unlimited' on the Skype page]

We believe that mobile is the next battlefield for VoIP, and International calling is where the battle will be fought.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Can Wi-Fi Marginalize Mobile Operators?

I'm paraphrasing in the title, but Ian Scales' article at Telecom TV titled "Are mobile operators in danger of losing their 'default' status" was an intriguing tag line which hooked me in. smoking_hut.jpg

The premise is that a phone vendor like Apple may decide to simply make Wi-Fi the preferred connection method and leave the macro network as the fall-back status. The article likens the situation to the current 'no smoking' bans in many countries.

Cellular service is relegated to the places where you can smoke... in your car, outside on the street, in the park. But it's not available in the places where you spend most of your time, at home, in the office, in the coffee shop (or pub, depending on your inclination...). [Ed note: a tip of the hat for that analogy... very clever!]

Regardless of the cleverness of the analogy, I must disagree. I don't think this will be the case any time soon. Operators deliver tremendous value through the macro network. And while Wi-Fi is 'everywhere', it's still not actually 'everywhere'.

However, there is a technology which enables mobile operators to continue to deliver service over Wi-Fi as if it were part of their macro network. That technology is called "Smart Wi-Fi", and it's based on the existing 3GPP GAN standard.

So if Apple, or some other vendor, did decide to make Wi-Fi the default connection preference, a Smart Wi-Fi application on the phone would deliver all the operator's revenue generating services (voice, SMS,...) to the subscriber as if they were attached to the macro network. The Smart Wi-Fi App also uses Wi-Fi to improve indoor 3G coverage.

Don't worry mobile operators, Smart Wi-Fi has you covered.

Informal Surveying

We have an informal survey on the home page of that we use to capture some information and opinion from our visitors. It's not scientific, nor is it a well-distributed audience, but we do get pretty good responses.

For example, for the past few months, we asked visitors to answer: Do you plan to get a femtocell at home?

After tallying up several hundred votes, nearly 40% (or 39.6% to be exact) answered they never plan to get a femtocell at home, because they use Wi-Fi. Another aha moment for me. That's why we're talking about how to make Wi-Fi smarter and more beneficial to subscribers and operators. As we can see, customers are already using it to solve their coverage problems.

Ironically, another 40% (or 39.7% to be exact) answered they would get a femtocell 'as soon as they're available from my operator.' Is our audience clamoring for femtos? Certainly there's interest. In fact, 13.6% of our respondents told us they have femtocells now, but 8.1% said they'll never get a femtocell, because they don't need it.

It would be fun to dig into the responses in more detail, but these numbers give us an overall glimpse and, quite frankly, the numbers speak for themselves. Ready to vote again? We've got a new survey up today.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Guest Blogger: Shannon Lucas

Today, I'm excited to introduce another guest blogger. It's been a while since we had a guest featured on this site. I think Shannon Lucas, fixed-mobile convergence architect with T-Mobile US, will have a lot to add to the dialogue. The floor is yours, Shannon:


Guest blogger: Shannon Lucas, FMC Architect, T-Mobile US

I appreciate the opportunity to guest blog on this site. I've long been a believer in UMA technology. As an FMC architect for T-Mobile, I've come across a number of technologies. This is one I believe in and that, in my opinion, benefits subscribers and mobile operators.

UMA is important to T-Mobile, and our customers love it. It seems like every day I receive positive feedback from our customers using UMA. They appreciate the improved coverage and the lower bill they get from calling over Wi-Fi. For some, the biggest benefit is using UMA when they travel outside the US and can make low cost calls back to the US.

I'm looking forward to being more vocal on this blog and will be picking some topics to write about. Feel free to make suggestions. More to come soon.