Will the Mobile Operators Warm Up to SIP?
For far too long the mobile operators have gotten away with delivering enterprise services that lack any imagination--providing the same service that they sell to consumers and have the audacity to suggest that is all an enterprise user needs.
While SIP trunking has become one of the hottest topics in networking, we've heard nary a peep on the subject from the mobile guys. That is not overly surprising given that mobile operators have traditionally tried to stay one step removed from the enterprise and depend on the wired network to make the last leg of the connection.That architecture may have been sufficient when the trickiest thing the mobile operators had to do was deliver caller ID, but unified communications has raised the ante in enterprise networking. One of the biggest opportunities in UC is to extend that rich communications environment to mobile workers who could benefit greatly from presence, multi-modal communications, collaboration, and the other core features of UC (I'm keeping video off the list for the moment, but 4G will probably put that into the mix as well).
That arm's length connection to the enterprise is a major stumbling block to delivering the type of enhanced services enterprise users require. Direct connections to the mobile operators have been standard in Europe for a number of years, but there it has been primarily an issue of cost. Mobile calls delivered over those direct trunks are either free or highly discounted. While a better price is always attractive, the real incentive is to have a direct intelligent interface that will allow enterprises to truly integrate mobile users into the UC environment.
This past week I had the opportunity to participate in a podcast with Henning Schulzrinne of Columbia University, who along with Mark Handley, is credited with the original development of SIP back in 1996. When I asked Professor Schulzrinne about the importance of using SIP to add intelligence to the mobile interface, he pounced on the topic.
The SIP interface we would be looking for from the mobile operators would need to incorporate SIMPLE (SIP with IM and Presence Leveraging Extensions). With SIMPLE we could not just make and receive calls, but have real-time presence and location information about the mobile device. That presence could incorporate power on/off as well as on/off hook; we could potentially receive battery status as well. Location could be based on the handset's GPS location or even simpler cell tower location, which is less accurate but more battery friendly.
A SIP based mobile network interface also could be enhanced to allow for secure Wi-Fi/cellular handoffs or simply the ability to conveniently move calls between a wired desk set and a mobile. A number of these capabilities exist today, however they typically involve sophisticated work-arounds or special clients on the handset all of which leave users unimpressed.
For far too long the mobile operators have gotten away with delivering enterprise services that lack any spark of imagination. Frankly they are providing the same service that they sell to consumers and have the audacity to suggest that that is all an enterprise user needs. The only operator I've seen who has made any attempt at moving into the 21st century is Sprint, whose Mobile Integration service at least provides a direct connection to the enterprise though without most of the important UC capabilities that would truly make it interesting.
Following on the heels of the UC Interoperability Forum's debut last week, hopefully the mobile operators will finally start to realize what is going on in enterprise networking and start to get with the program. Unfortunately if history is any guide, the mobile operators will continue to underperform for the enterprise.For far too long the mobile operators have gotten away with delivering enterprise services that lack any imagination--providing the same service that they sell to consumers and have the audacity to suggest that is all an enterprise user needs.