As network operators court the IT channel and mobile technology creeps into VARs’ portfolios, industry players have predicted the increased convergence of the fixed, mobile and IT worlds.
Many channel firms have kept an eye on the development of fixed mobile convergence (FMC) technology. Research suggests the technology has seen growth. A study from Infonetics revealed the number of seamless FMC phone shipments grew 214 per cent annually in 2008.
Worldwide, seamless FMC subscribers hiked 413 per cent last year and the total now stands at 8.6 million. Infonetics predicts that this will increase almost tenfold over the next four years, with 82 million subscribers forecasted in 2013.
Fixed for FMC
Global revenue from FMC network element equipment and femtocell kit will continue growing healthily through the economic turmoil, claimed Infonetics. The research firm predicted a surge in 2011 would help propel combined sales to a total of nearly $8bn by 2013.
Paul Butcher, UK managing director of integrator Damovo, claimed he saw FMC as a growth technology which would be a key focus for his firm. He claimed operators such as O2 were starting to provide “viable tariffing” for enterprises to buy into the technology.
“The ability of smartphones to deliver collaboration offers huge opportunity to make a more flexible workforce and drive real cost savings,” he said. “That is going to be a key driver for our customers; we see FMC as a great opportunity.”
The rise of the smartphone has been pinpointed as a key factor in driving convergence between the mobile, fixed and IT worlds.
Analyst Gartner reported that worldwide sales last year rose 13.9 per cent on 2007 to 139.3 million.
Growth began to slow in 2008’s closing quarter, with sales increasing 3.7 per cent year on year to 38.1 million. In Q4 2008, smartphones accounted for 12 per cent of all mobile devices sold, up from 11 per cent the previous year.
In the fourth quarter 2008 Nokia held more than two-fifths of the market but RIM almost doubled its market share year on year to take second spot with 19.5 per cent of sales. Apple enjoyed treble-digit sales growth to take third spot with 10.7 per cent. HTC was fourth with 4.3 per cent, just one tenth of a point ahead of Samsung, which grew sales 138 per cent.
Gartner research director Roberto Cozza claimed the manufacturers’ battle for supremacy would continue to intensify.
“In 2008, the focus from vendors and operators on increasing their smartphone portfolios was strong,” he said. “This year, mobile platforms will be a major battle ground.”
David Perry, head of marketing for workforce management firm Cognito, claimed convergence at the device level would bring voice, data and mobile channel specialists closer.
He added vendors with IP backgrounds would thrive more than traditional telephony players.
“If you talk to Cisco or Microsoft, you get a very learned discussion,” he said. “The incumbent voice players have difficulty and many barriers are to do with the financial models.”
Mobile operators are increasingly visible in the IT channel with a third of O2’s UK partners coming through its Data Centre of Excellence.
Orange also recently unveiled plans to recruit 200 data resellers, with a focus on SME-specialised Microsoft houses.
Telecoms firm Daisy Group recently launched its mobile arm and marketing director Stuart Cordingley claimed IT VARs needed to adapt to a different business model to flourish in the telecoms space.
“The fixed-line and mobile worlds are used to forward-buying their business on the assumption that the customer will appear,” he said. “IT resellers need to understand that.”
Richard Hudson, EMEA head of channel for the Motorola’s Enterprise Mobility Business, claimed resellers from IT and voice backgrounds faced differing challenges in a converged world.
“Neither will be completely familiar with offering voice and data on the same platform,” he said. “While data resellers will be more confident offering services such as hosted exchange and business-grade instant messenger, voice resellers are more likely to be trusted to switch a customer from traditional to IP telephony.”
He added that now was the perfect time for VARs to try FMC. “It offers a way
for resellers to broaden their portfolios and get into new
markets,” he said. “They can offer customers a complete mobility package, rather than the siloed systems they may previously have had.”
But Jess Thompson-Hughes, managing director of wireless specialist React Technologies, claimed embracing new business models takes time.
“Most data and telephony specialists do not understand the convergence piece,” he said. “Not many understand the likes of FMC or unified communications. It is not that they cannot do it, it is just when they wake up in the morning they face an inbox full of stuff from yesterday.”
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