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As the businesspeople’s pockets bulge with ever more devices, there are moves to reverse the trend by marrying fixed and mobile communications.

Claiming a world first, BT already offers Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC), to consumers and expects to launch a fully managed enterprise solution next year. Slipping the office into their pockets, users will carry one phone; have one contact number, address book and bill.

This single handset will access essential company services previously only available from desktop phones. Corporate applications including directories; short dialling codes; multi-user calling; intranet and internet access plus e-mails; video clips; sales presentations and slide shows will be accessible from one mobile device.

By co-ordinating handsets with personal diaries, calls automatically divert to message services or colleagues during meetings, reverting back to normal mode when they end. A presence facility adds the ability to “see” who is available.

The advantages to business are measured in controlling and reducing the spiralling expense of mobile usage and, by eliminating desktop phones, cutting the number of connected devices. Managing and maintaining a single FMC corporate network is cheaper and more efficient.

Costs drop, since calls automatically travel via the less expensive fixed network and are only transmitted over the cellular system when necessary.

National and international connections over the corporate network are free and access from BT hotspots around the world is charged at Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) rates.

Global mobile roaming charges disappear, as employees link into company systems via Wi-Fi hotspots.

Although holding more and more sensitive data, mobiles will be more easily managed and tightly integrated into the corporate security umbrella. Software can be sent to users wherever they are. Information can be wiped remotely faster from missing handsets and, since phones can be configured to back up or store information in corporate networks or hosting centres, data need not be held locally. Strong encryption and authentication procedures protect against abuse.

Handset makers do not believe FMC will have any significant impact on size, shape, weight, functionality or even battery life although screens will probably, get bigger. Paul Ashton, director of product management at Siemens BenQ, says: “For viewing video clips, the FMC phone is no larger than current 3G handsets and battery consumption for calls is similar to today.”

“Our experience with Wi-Fi phones is that they last for 24 hours, which is fine for business use,” says Steve Andrews, chief of convergence/mobility at BT.

Marcus Dacombe, head of product marketing at Nokia, believes design is critical: “FMC is the next logical step for handsets giving people ‘office on the go’ functionality but they will want a choice of devices appropriate to the task.”

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