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May 17, 2015updated 22 Sep 2016 11:49am

Vodafone Q&A: What fixed-mobile convergence brings to business

How will the unification of landline and mobile change how we work?

By Alexander Sword

Mobile has ushered in a new era of always-on business, in which you don’t have to be in the office to work. CBR speaks to Tony Bailey, ?Head of Vodafone Business Services, about the role that fixed-mobile convergence has to play in this trend.

CBR: How has mobile changed the way enterprises communicate?

TB: Mobility is really at the centre of the way people are communicating. People by their very nature are becoming more mobile and expecting to be more mobile. For the next generation, Generation Y or Millennials, mobility and mobile is the way they’re used to working and operating. Therefore, from a way of working and from an ability to attract talent into the workplace and to the market [mobile] is fundamental.

Vodafone is in a very good place because the market is moving more mobile. You can see it in ways such as the mobilisation of the internet, where there are now more mobile devices than fixed devices being sold per annum. More and more people are accessing applications and their workload and work applications via mobile devices. It really is the centre of communications.

CBR: Why is fixed mobile convergence (FMC) becoming so big now?

TB: These trends can sometimes be driven by the technology market. FMC is driven by the customers and demanded by the customers, as the customer’s customer becomes more demanding and wants to have access to an organisation when it’s convenient for them as opposed to when it’s convenient for the organisation. The ability to be always available and ready to take a call is really fundamental for a business. This applies especially if you’re a smaller business; the ability to take a call when you’re in the office and still be able to when you’re out of the office and the way that you merge business life with your own life are fundamental.

It’s one of those areas that is driven by demand from the market and customers as opposed to a push from technology. We saw in research carried out a while ago that the average UK adult had something like 7.4 different electronic communication channels, be those email, mobile phone, text, websites, fixed line phones. Bringing all of those together in a consistent, dependable way so that you can always reach your customers is pretty fundamental. We have customers right at the very small end of the market who are winning business because they are always available, all the way up to the larger end of the market, where it’s just very important that people can always get through.

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CBR: What can businesses gain from FMC?

TB: Looking at how do you reach your customers, how do you raise revenue and how do you reduce costs, I think FMC is relevant to all of them. Firstly, as we move FMC to the Cloud and have that as an OpEx based model for customers, it’s good in terms of managing and handling their cost base.

For raising revenues, it is about never missing that call if there’s a customer on the end of it who might want to place business with you. Reaching your customers is about just making it convenient for them to always get through to you when it’s convenient for them. FMC plays into all the areas that business typically are focused on and that business owners and CEOs concern themselves about.

CBR: What would a good FMC strategy consist of?

TB: I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning in a business and thinks about adopting fixed mobile convergence. Having a conversation with your customers about how they can change the way they work and how they can make themselves more effective, not only across technology but across process, people, space utilisation of buildings is really successful. It plays to the company’s benefits of how they attract the right talent, how they keep their people happy with their work-life balance, how they reduce their cost bases by managing real estate and using that effectively and how they get more people working in a hot-desking environment.

These are the conversations that really land with businesses. What we’re then typically finding is that one of the ways that they are delivering those benefits is FMC. As the market moves towards cloud-centred solutions, we will deliver that out of the cloud, adding the benefits of doing that on an OpEx based model, minimising the upfront CapEx, keeping that technology always constant and delivering one bill, one subscription, one service across any device.

CBR: Can you give a specific example of how it might be used?

TB: I think it applies across multiple verticals. In a service branch environment, the ability for a person to still take a customer call whether they’re at the front desk or away from it is fundamental. If you were dependent on a fixed phone at the front desk and when you were away you didn’t answer it, it wouldn’t be acceptable nowadays. The ability to be able to walk away from that desk and still take calls and provide customer service is fundamentally important.

One of our case studies references specifically an occasion when someone was away from the office and the office was closed. They then took a call outside working hours from someone who was with a competitor, won a service contract and got some incremental revenues off the back of that. That example shows the importance of the ability to constantly be in contact with your customers and be able to serve your customers when it suits them.

I think UC is a really different way of communicating. If you look at the move within the industry from fixed phones to IP, the user experience was not a lot different. There were some business benefits but the benefits to the user were pretty small. In the transition that we’re now seeing with UC and FMC, the user experience is fundamentally different. There is a real tangible user and business benefit that was not as visible with the deployment of IP telephony.

CBR: How does the overall mobile network fit into FMC?

TB: The way that we deploy fixed mobile convergence is consciously device-agnostic. We don’t believe that you should have to have a smartphone to get FMC. We don’t believe you should have to have a different experience on the mobile from the fixed. We don’t believe you should have to load an application onto your smartphone to get the benefits of the service.

The way that we’ve delivered FMC is true FMC because the integration happens in our network. We are agnostic to the device that the customer chooses to take the call on, be that a 4G device, smartphone or non-smart device or be it fixed line phone or a PC.

The network is fundamentally important because if you’re picking up a call, you use the mobile network. However, we don’t take an approach that you have to have a smartphone to be able to take the benefits of fixed mobile.

CBR: Does this mean that carrier networks have an advantage in UC?

TB: We would argue that having a strong fixed network and a strong mobile network has a direct benefit to customers. The way that we deliver the service is device-agnostic, you don’t have to load an application that could potentially impact the battery power on your phone; it’s a consistent experience across the device. Therefore we think there’s a definite benefit in comparison to a fixed operator.

There are different flavours of FMC in the market. There’s what we call commercial FMC, which is people taking a mobile service and a fixed service and then commercially bundling those together in a package. We don’t think that’s true FMC. We think true FMC is having consistent features across your fixed and mobile, being able to detect the presence of those calls through your own network and delivering it as one service, one subscription with one bill.

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