Fixed mobile substitution has been a topic discussed in the telecoms industry for many years. There are numerous forecasts that highlight replacement of traditional landlines with mobile devices and make long term predictions, heavily in favour of mobile connectivity. Early research tended to focus on residential markets – particularly the phenomenon through which younger householders simply didn’t bother to secure a landline connection at all, depending on mobiles for all their telephony needs. OECD analysis showed a clear overall decline in access lines during the decade 1996 – 2005. The only thing that has arrested the decline of traditional analogue telephony is its persistence as part of a broadband package: OECD figures suggest that growth in broadband has offset the decline in traditional fixed line access during the same decade. With increased performance from mobile broadband and acceptable price points, that trend may itself come to a halt, leading to acceleration in fixed-mobile substitution. This will bring us back to where we started – fixed mobile substitution as a threat to fixed communication. Whilst this sounds like good news for mobile operators, the picture is a little more complicated than that.
Recent news articles – including this one – suggest that businesses are now starting to go through the same migration. We have probably all experienced the tendency of colleagues and contacts to use our mobile phone numbers by default, so it’s clear the behaviour of individuals has changed. But, businesses have also been reluctant to shed traditional systems due to a desire to preserve the features associated with costly PBX platforms. This fear isn’t entirely misplaced – many businesses derive a great deal of utility from the numbering plans and features associated with PBXs. But since the same article quotes research that suggests 25% of US businesses are phasing out desk-phones, it’s fair to say this looks significant – and can lead to significant cost savings.
The complexity stems from the fact that some enterprises consider this to be a compromise between lower overall cost and the loss of features that yield valuable business benefits. This creates resistance to the idea and inertia, which could lessen the impact of fixed-mobile substitution in the enterprise. But, it’s not an all or nothing decision: these cost savings don’t have to come at the expense of a loss of features and functionality. Enterprises don’t need to fear sacrificing valuable functionality in the pursuit of cost reduction. Here’s why.
Hosted Mobile PBX solutions can provide all of the features supported in classical premises-based PBX systems, but via mobile handsets – without modification or special software. If businesses choose to adopt a hosted mobile PBX system, they can enjoy the benefits of PBX capabilities, unified dialling plan, and so on, in addition to cost-savings.
This is a significant opportunity for mobile operators. Of course, Mobile PBX solutions can be complementary to existing fixed solutions, but for companies seeking to capitalise on mobility and replace their legacy platforms, selecting a service from a mobile operator that extends PBX capabilities to mobile handsets should be an easy decision. It’s also a win-win for both – concerned businesses avoid having to make a compromise, enjoy significant cost savings and capitalise on increased mobility; mobile operators capture more minutes and can charge a premium for the bundle tariff that includes call minutes as well as the services. Best of all, with a clear value proposition enabled by a fully-featured Mobile PBX, mobile operators can differentiate themselves on more than just cost, and avoid the pitfalls of a price battle to recruit these migrating enterprise customers. At a stroke, the fear of a loss of functionality can be neutralised.
So if it’s a win-win, why aren’t more operators considering this? Perhaps it’s because all investment decisions are subject to much greater scrutiny during these turbulent times. Or, perhaps because operators are concerned about deploying a solution into their existing network infrastructure – compatibility with existing IN-based VPN product is one concern we hear frequently. We tend to think the latter is more troublesome, after all, operators are known for the diligence with which they plan network expenditure, but network integration issues have dogged deployments for years. We’ve covered all of these issues at Gintel.
We provide a Mobile PBX solution that helps operators win and keep new business – and build a portfolio of compelling enterprise solution offers. We also do so cost-effectively, helping exceed ROI goals. Our solution is fully compatible with existing IN deployments, ensuring investment preservation and providing an opportunity to migrate services to a true NGN infrastructure when desired. What’s more, some enterprises have been cautious about using mobile numbers as their primary mode of contact, or in exposing individual mobile extensions. With a classical PBX, the presentation number from an extension can usually be set to that of the main office. Gintel solves this issue, by allowing operators to select presentation numbers that are acceptable, either virtual or real geographic numbers, depending on regulatory conditions.
Does this sound interesting? Come and talk to us at Mobile World Congress, and see how our solutions can help you capitalise on the growing trend for enterprise fixed-mobile substitution.
Tore Saeter, January 2009
OECD Communications Outlook, 2007