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Service convergence—bringing it all together

Service convergence—bringing it all together

Service convergence lets people connect simply to a wider number of services using a smaller number of devices. It’s a wireless-centric model that brings convenience, coverage and cost-savings.

The primary goal of service convergence is the concurrent delivery of all media types–voice, data, and video–all to an easy-to-use graphical interface. The related goal of network convergence is to make all services profitable: related because services that are easy to use quickly become popular and help to increase revenues.

We’ve become a mobile society and use cell phones extensively in both the business and personal sides of our lives. In some countries these ubiquitous devices are called a ‘mobile’ or a ‘handy’, terms that indicate usage and convenience. However, almost everything else we employ is constrained in one way or another. Devices may be limited by their functionality or the network they access; very often the task for which they were originally designed has evolved. As a result they have become communications islands scattered across our daily lives.

We have TDM and IP phones and cellular phones that have different air interfaces. There are DECT and VoIP phones in the office and at home, Wi-Fi phones in hospitals, warehouses and other vertical markets. Smartphones that have Wi-Fi and cellular interfaces are the latest addition.

Sometimes the device is used for a single service, a PSTN phone for example; in other cases it performs two or more tasks. Smartphones can send and receive emails; PDAs and notebook PCs can function as softphones. We therefore need ways of synchronizing messages, address books and agendas.

It has become obvious that technology has, at times, dictated the way we use telecommunications. There are too many service islands, which leads to different user experiences from the different public and private networks. What’s required is a unifying device and services that are employed in the same, simple way.

It is clear that there cannot be a single unifying device given that users have different needs, but smartphones are a serious contender for voice plus multimedia services in a true mobility environment. Multiple air interfaces enable access over circuit- and packet-switched networks and SIP allows service and applications to traverse different IP networks.

Mobile phone development has been rapid in the last decade, but new models will take increased advantage of technological developments. They will have enhanced colour displays and higher quality imaging, developments that are needed to support new services and applications. The explosion in memory capacity and exponential growth in processing power will also allow smartphones to replicate the applications currently employed in notebook PCs and PDAs.

New model: personalised services

Services will need to be customised to match individual needs and it is essential for service take-up that the users experience does not change when, for example, transitioning from cellular to fixed VoIP telephony.

It may sound like a tall order, but it’s the mobility/service model that users want and now is the time to create it. We have the requisite standards and technologies and it will be realized via an industry-wide initiative in which Nokia is playing a leading role.

The end users perception of fixed-mobile convergence will be that of one network. The new multi-radio phones can access fixed packet networks as well as cellular networks.

The PSTN is migrating to IP, which brings VoIP telephony services and smooth inter-working to existing voice networks. Both fixed and cellular networks are enhanced to enable IP multimedia person to person and content to person services. An evolution towards the same goal, service delivery, will be network agnostic.

The ability to employ all services all the time is the automatic result of ubiquitous access and Internet technologies, e.g. SIP & HTTP.

Personalized, consistent services

Mobile phones are devices you carry with you; they are an integral part of a person’s lifestyle. Skins and ring tones add variety; they reflect personal tastes. The ability to personalize services is also important for business users. Whether it is about email delivery, or managing personal information management. However, these examples are merely the tip of tomorrow’s service iceberg.

Mobility gives us the freedom to employ services from any location: at home, in the office or on the move. Services are therefore not constrained by the network, so they also become an integral part of our personal and business lives. In turn this means that customization needs to be consistent: the individual experience should not change with the network or the terminal.

Thus, the mobility model becomes me-centric. My phone book & contact info; my agenda; my wall-paper; my messages, my availability & preferred communication method; my browser links, my pictures [received and shared]; my personal and business email; my wallpaper, my music files and so on. Everything individuals need throughout the day goes with them.

The impact of IP and complementary access methods

Telephony is a rich medium, one that we use throughout the day; a medium that conveys nuances and emotions. In many markets wireless telephony has become the preferred way of communicating. However, Voice over IP has made a seismic impact on telephony within enterprises and as the penetration of broadband access to the Internet increases, so does the use of this transport mechanism within the home.

Calls made over the Internet cost far less than those made over the PSTN or a cellular network. However, another device is needed, another network is used, and the functionality is very limited. Smartphones have many interfaces now including WLAN so they can access fixed broadband networks. This allows the mobile to be used as an IP phone, so there is no need for a second device.

This development (fixed-mobile convergence) means for instance that subscribers can employ their customized services at home. Nothing changes except that the total cost of calls is less than those currently made over wireline and cellular networks.

Note also that in some countries indoor cellular coverage is poor or even nonexistent, so WLANs reach is an additional benefit. And the same personalized services can be employed in offices that have WLANs and in public hot spots. For example:

* Same voice telephony supplementary services like call waiting/barring, calling line identification and conferencing.

* Same ringing-tones and the ability to share real-time video during voice calls (visuals are what you remember).

* Same rich messaging and the ability to mix and match different media: text, pictures, video and audio in a communication session.

* Same mobility to media consumption: music, TV, games and video.

* Same use of presence, which improves efficiency and opens up a background information channel.

* Same ability to access intranets and process emails.

The merger of wireless and Internet technologies has also resulted in a new instant communications medium: push-to-talk (PTT). PTT uses a virtual connection, so two or more parties can stay on-line for as long as they need. Capacity is only used when somebody talks, so a one-hour session may only consume three minutes of airtime. The worldwide market for this service is set to take off in 2005. There will be business users in vertical markets and consumers will embrace it for individual and group/community applications. Other exciting services that will change the way people communicate include Presence, Instant Messaging and Real Time Video Sharing.

Conclusions

Fixed Mobile Service convergence focuses on subscribers and their needs. It is a wireless centric model that brings a unified voice and multimedia service experience, network coverage and cost savings to subscribers while being at home, in the office or on the move. Always-on mobility is a given baseline, but subscribers want more. Next to the unified service experience independent of which network is used, they want to personalize. Easy to use multi-radio smart devices are key enablers.

My device, with my services and my enhancements which are about me, for me at home, work and on the road.

The key requirement is to bring it all together in easy to use packages and that is what service convergence is all about.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Advanstar Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group