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RIM Continues Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) Push with Blackberry MVS 5

Although RIM is not the first vendor to support VoWiFi, its announcement is important because it has long been the "gold standard" in the enterprise. This announcement has greatest appeal to Blackberry MVS customers who use FMC to interwork calls between IP PBXs and 2G devices while the employee is away from his/her normal place of work (eg, while on the road). This extends FMC to employees while they are in the office/on the company campus.Many IT departments have been requesting this type of capability, so it's no surprise that a growing number of vendors are responding. Despite this important advancement, it's equally important to note that this most recent version of MVS does not automatically handoff calls between VoWiFi and 2G (specifically, no handoffs from VoWiFi to 2G).

Since RIM is not a manufacturer of IP PBXs or WLANS, here are some other issues CIOs should consider:

1. IP PBX and WLAN compatibility. In this case, the Blackberry MVS 5 works with Cisco's UC Manager and Unified Wireless Network, but not others (HP, Avaya, etc.). However, other vendors are working with RIM on MVS 5--so expect future vendor announcements, but don't expect every vendor/model conceivable to "partner" on this.

2. The ability of the WLAN to reliably, consistently support voice (on campus, in a building). This has two main components:

a. Coverage--In the settings cited, some companies deploy WLANs fairly ubiquitously, some still deploy it sparingly.

b. Failover--The MVS 5 Blackberry client can't (1) accept automatic handoffs from an IP PBX deskphone and (2) automatically handoff calls to 2G services.

3. Other devices. Enabling and adding value to Blackberry solutions obviously is RIM's job, and companies which seek a generic solution must look elsewhere. But readers seeking device-generic enterprise-class solutions that aren't tied to particular IP PBX or WLAN solution won't find a wealth of alternatives.

4. Economic tradeoffs. Some enterprises strike deals with wireless providers in which calls between the PBX and a corporate liable mobile device or between two corporate liable mobile users are low cost or free. These deals usually are not tied to specific devices, which is good news for companies seeking such freedom. But the deals obviously tie a company to a particular mobile provider, and are part of a larger contractual arrangement. Ultimately, it all comes down to economic tradeoffs--if there are a large number of Blackberry users onsite, then the RIM approach could provide greater ROI. But if there are a comparatively small number of users (or a wide array of devices), a carrier-based model could provide better economic returns.