At the moment, around 30% of calls made on business mobiles are made indoors, according to figures from analysts. The landline is cheaper, but the mobile is easier; and it often stores the number a user wants to call. The new networks will be able to offer indoor mobile calls that can match or beat the landline rates.
The indoor network will be handled by a picocell base station which uses the internet to connect the calls. Low-power GSM has all the advantages of the GSM-plus-WiFi solution exemplified by BT Fusion, but any mobile phone will be able to use the picocell services.
Only one of the new licences went to an existing mobile operator – O2. Orange was among those outbid; the winners include some big names (BT, Cable & Wireless and Carphone Warehouse via its Opal Telecom subsidiary) plus some smaller specialists – like FMS Solutions, which wants to use the technology for the emergency services, and Mapesbury Communications which already puts T-Mobile WiFi hotspots into Texaco service stations.
BT obviously intends to extend the Fusion approach but also sees a market in remote monitoring, for instance for refrigerators in retail outlets. O2 will presumably push picocells into business premises.
The total amount of the licence fees paid was £3.8m, though the range was from £1.5m (Colt Telecommunications) down to a bargain £50,110.
It might take a year before prices and products are ready for prime time, but the arrival of cheap and easy fixed/mobile convergence for any handset could be a shot in the arm for the mobile industry.
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