Technology is driving an interesting revolution in working practises right now, as mobiles enable employees to do their work from pretty much anywhere work is now something people do and not somewhere they go. The mobility trend has thrown up many opportunities for the Channel and here we take a look at one more, Fixed-Mobile Convergence (FMC). The uptake of FMC solutions has been slow but that may be about to change. As 4G becomes more widespreadthe potential for FMC solutions has dramatically increased, but are resellers interested? David Dungay takes a look at the FMC market.
FMC services can find application in most markets where organisations are using both fixed line and mobile comms. There are several real sweet spots though. Smaller organisations that are very mobile or very distributed are ideal. Mobility and distributed working requirements almost immediately lends themselves to FMC.
Gavin Sweet, Director, Skyrack Telecom commented “Despite the slow uptake in the market, it is still growing steadily, and it feels like FMC will really find its feet during 2015. We are recruiting more and more “younger” resellers now who approach FMC and traditional fixed/hosted in the same breath, rather than thinking of FMC as a funky extra. It helps that we have tried to package FMC as nothing more than “wireless PBX” for our straight reseller market. In this model, there’s no need to differentiate between FMC and other forms of telephony – its just happens that FMC is easier because it just uses SIMs rather than wires! In the more wholesale side of the market is where we’ve seen our real growth though.”
John Donaldson, Commercial Director at iHub added “We are seeing the demand for FMC-based products picking up now. It certainly is something you have to be able to offer within your portfolio or some of the larger customers won’t even consider you. This is despite them not actually taking an FMC service further down the line. We very much sell it as an add–on, the principle value the customers look for in hosted IPT solutions is feature set, platform provenance and price. Having a FMC offering is still secondary but this is now starting to change. If you are truly using these types of services in a mobile environment, there can be the issue of bandwidth availability and reliability which may make it a frustrating user experience if they are connected via a heavily utilised 3G network.”
Although demand is on the up challenges remain in the FMC market. According to Gavin Sweet there is a major mindset shift needed by the customer before these solutions really take off. He said “Consumers still think in silos – and many sales organisations pander to those silos – mobile in one part of the brain, fixed in another part!”
Invosys Sales Director, Steve Glaister added “As with most things, it’s chicken and egg. Customers want to know their solution will work, first time and all of the time. The traditional companies may not be selling the products which will lead to a demise in existing revenues, however they are the companies that the end users trust. This is potentially good news for everyone else as disruptive products will lead to market share.”
Glaister continued “The challenge now is to get customers to realise that they are not buying their mobile and landlines separately, but that the whole system is one package which falls under the communications umbrella. This also includes many of their IT functions – all products, at all times, everywhere. It is mind blowing for us in the industry, let alone for those whose business specialises in other areas.
The challenge for the channel community is to realise that many legacy products are no longer required and for sales forces to recognise what can be cut out. It does mean that there is a requirement for fixed and mobile to work as one and those two sales teams rarely mix.”
Steve Glaister agrees with Curtis-Wood, “Unfortunately, the Channel is not fully seizing the FMC opportunity. There are early adopters as there will always be, however it is easier to sell to a customer exactly what they have asked for, rather than steering them towards the solution that will work best for their business. This is where resellers need to think smarter, and demonstrate the benefits of the FMC advantage to the end user, from both a cost and effectiveness perspective.”
On the Channel and selling FMC Sweet added, “It’s a fickle place that can follow the easy sales like bees around the honey, remember how your PE teacher used to shout at you all for all running to the ball? Long term you need strategic plays, and we’re not sure that the Channel is really getting that across the board at the moment. We see lots of Channel players still chasing the same old opportunities and letting themselves get run into the same old commoditised positions – when you don’t have differentiating services like FMC, you will end up succumbing to pricing pressure and only fight on price (unless you’ve got a big brand, which most don’t).
The parts of the Channel doing well that we see, are those that have embraced a broader solutions sell, with more involvement in the business’s needs. Every IT guy is an “expert” now in setting up an Asterisk box with SIP trunk or grabbing a few simply hosted VoIP phones, so you need to do more, and that means being better with call quality, or analytics, or compliance, or FMC features – all these things bring real extra value.”
With the mobility trend showing no signs of slowing down it is hard to predict if we will still be using the terminology FMC in years to come. Will it just fall under one more feature in the UC conversation that is a standard business feature? Robin Hayman, Director of Marketing & Product Management at SpliceCom has his own opinions about mobility.
He says, “If Fixed Mobile Convergence is a technology, then Mobility is a state of mind. The latter has far outgrown the premise (no pun intended) of the former; why switch your mobile call to your deskphone when you reach the office, when your smartphone is the only device you require for ALL your business calls? Sure, calls still have to be tracked for business management statistics and recorded for compliance, but mobility doesn’t stop when you enter your office, it’s just as essential inside the building as outside.
Those VARs maximising their mobility sales aren’t the ones specialising in SmartPhones – it’s the WiFi specialists who are best placed to win the business. We’re not talking about single base stations here, it’s a well planned, managed network that’s required and from what we’re seeing at present its voice with combined Voice and WiFi skills that are taking the lion’s share of the mobility business. Because they’ve got the office mobility bit covered, the out-of-office connectivity is plain sailing.
Mobility is a key element of the Unified Communications mix, indeed, it could be argued to be the most important piece of the whole voice jigsaw at present. Win the mobility business and you’ve got the majority of the business continuity/disaster recovery piece as well – just add the cloud, hosted or hybrid IP PBX into the equation. The definition of FMC is now too limited. Think wider – think connectivity in and out of the office – think Total Mobility!”
The future of FMC is set to grow; whether we still call it FMC in the future is up for debate. Businesses demand mobility from their employees, in fact it is generally agreed that you get more from most employees if you arm them with technology that allows them mobility and the ability to remote work with their normal business tools. Resellers are in an ideal position to take advantage of this opportunity but must introduce the concept of FMC to their customers as many wont realise its benefits.