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Fixed-Mobile Convergence is Evolving

The dream of using one telephone with one number whether at home, at work or on the street -- and of networks smart enough to hand over a call in progress -- is approaching reality.

"Fixed-mobile convergence" is the buzzphrase for this telephonic utopia, and it is being driven by a complex blend of threats and opportunities that are analyzed in a new ABI Research study.

Pressured by VoIP operators such as Skype/eBay and Vonage, and anxious to reduce costs by bringing fixed and mobile businesses together, mobile operators, mobile virtual operators and integrated network operators (including France Telecom and British Telecom) are increasingly drawn to FMC.

"The case for FMC rests on the availability of low-cost, dual-use (cellular and WLAN) handsets," says the study's author, analyst Ian Cox. "The first models are nearing commercial launch, and their prices should be competitive with conventional mobile handsets early in 2006. That will be the trigger for offering this service."

FMC needs to be standards-based to ensure cross-network compatibility, and this regulatory effort is well under way. The result: UMA, usable with existing mobile networks and IMS-capable for IP networks, will lead early in the consumer market, while SIP addresses the needs of the enterprise.

"We expect FMC to take off sooner in Europe and Asia than in North America because of the greater prevalence of GSM and 3G services in those regions," notes Cox. "However any operator using a suitable network can gain a competitive edge by early adoption of FMC, and ABI Research anticipates that up to a fifth of all broadband subscribers will be taking advantage of FMC's convenience and lower costs by 2010."

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