International Disconnect

Long-fragmented U.S. wireless networks have created a chasm in the global business network.

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A reason for this is that the operating system licensing agreements for handhelds differ from those of traditional PCs. In the handheld world, the license exists between the mobile operating system developer and the device maker, rather than between the operating system vendor and the end customer.

"So when there is an OS upgrade, I have to upgrade to a new device," King says. But in the case of laptops and tablets, he says, "I hold all the licensing agreements," which allows his company to extend the life of its devices.

Service Trends

Strategy Analytics says that the U.S. trails its international counterparts in deploying wireless business services.

For example, Mobile Centrex is catching on in Sweden, where TeliaSonera AB offers services that extend wired Centrex dialing plans to GSM users. Centrex has been around for decades and is usually used by smaller companies. A telephone switching service hosted in a carrier's network, it gives businesses an alternative to buying, managing and maintaining their own telephone switches or private branch exchanges.

Sweden's mobile version of Centrex service is reportedly being used by companies of varying sizes, largely because it enables a phone number to be used both with land-line and GSM mobile phones; it's an early form of fixed-mobile convergence, or FMC.

The service outpaces U.S. offerings. "I've been asking for mobile GSM Centrex for years," says King. He says he wants his numbers to be in a closed user group, with six-digit dialing around the world and with his company in charge of the dialing plan. "Cingular says this is about three years away" in the U.S., King notes.

What will ultimately unify the world's mobile networks, devices and services?

Transamerica's Golshani says it will take mergers to get carriers on a universal protocol -- which could be mobile WiMax, a competitor to 3G cellular that is still in its infancy. "That could someday be the protocol we would use to connect everyone together if it becomes pervasive," he says.

Voellinger says companies should stay focused on FMC cross-network application services and protocols. "You'll see some enterprises take the leap" with FMC equipment that has recently become available, he says. "Then the service providers will react."

FMC, he concludes, "will provide a Darwinian method of getting us to a unified marketplace."

Wexler is a freelance technology editor/writer based in California's Silicon Valley. Reach her at joanie@jwexler.com. See more about global mobile from our special report:

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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