First low-power GSM licence put to use

Employees can move from a private campus network to a GSM network with a new service from Private Mobile Network (PMN), a subsidiary of Teleware.

The company produces PMN SIM cards, so users can move seamlessly between private and public networks, and the service is the first to be launched using the low-power GSM licences awarded by Ofcomin April this year. Teleware was one of the 12 licence winners having paid more than a £1m, the second highest amount.

Operations director for PMN Dean Parsons said that despite the high cost, the bid was money well spent. "For us it was absolutely essential to get that licence," he said. The new service was a way for organisations to reduce costs, he argued. "We found that most of our customers had their fixed line costs under control but mobile costs were completely out of control." Part of the problem, Parsons said, was that people were used to using their mobiles at all time, even at their desk, adding greatly to the corporate phone bill.

PMN began exploring alternatives to GSM, starting with voice over WiFi, "but this was two years ago, and we decided that the technology wasn’t mature enough. It hadn’t been designed to handle voice and the handsets were really clunky." So the company decided to explore the low-power GSM option.

The new system works within a campus or a fixed area: users will use the corporate network if it is within range, otherwise the users will be connected to their mobile operator. The system works by placing a platform alongside the existing PBX that routes calls using least-cost routing technology.

Parsons said the system had taken some time to launch but the problems had been political rather than technical. "There had been a lack of willingness by the UK operators to work with us," he said. In the end, the company partnered with Isle of Man-based Cloud Nine.

According to Parsons, cost-savings are only part of the technological benefits of the new service. "Our strength has been with applications and you can expect to see a whole new range of service being introduced over the next year," he said.

For example, companies would be able to record voice conversations over mobile phones so financial companies would no longer need to ban mobile phones on trading floors. Parsons also said that the definition of a campus was a loose one. "We talking about installing an island-wide system," he said, "but it could also be offered across a city."

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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