Having a Flexible Mobile Management Solution
Companies interested in deploying FMC services should also spend a good amount of time qualifying their wireless networks for the increased demands of voice traffic. Certainly the network will need to support WMM (wireless multimedia extensions) for quality of service over the wireless link, and key pre-caching will also benefit handover in a tightly secured network. However, more generally, wireless administrators should take another look at the coverage overlaps through the Wi-Fi-enabled areas, as areas under-covered for voice traffic may not have reared their heads when supporting data traffic only. The FMC solutions of today are geared towards bringing smartphones from just a few makers into the PBX fold. Nokia phones running the Symbian mobile operating system are particularly favored as the device maker does a good job adding features much needed for VOIP (voice over IP) communications and PBX integration-such as power efficient Wi-Fi radios and advanced voice codecs-and exposing the right APIs in the operating system for FMC makers to tap into.Because firmware upgrades to the smartphone fleet could be a common exercise for FMC implementers, having a flexible mobile management solution-one that can track firmware revisions of in-the-field devices, perform over-the-air firmware upgrades, and deliver updated software packages (like the FMC client) in a timely fashion-will be a critical element towards success of the integration. Unfortunately for U.S. business customers, none of the FMC vendors that we talked to today support BlackBerry devices from RIM for use with their systems. Over the last few years, RIM's devices gained such a strong foothold in American business because they did a great job of solving the last killer mobile app-e-mail. But because of the efforts RIM customers have made to deploy BlackBerry devices-including deploying backend BlackBerry Enterprise Servers and associated monitoring and management solutions-FMC makers will likely find it difficult to gain traction with U.S. customers unwilling to throw the old and operational in favor of the new and experimental, especially given the additional costs that must be incurred to deploy new phones running a different operating system, porting other applications to the new operating system, and deploying backend management systems to reign in the whole thing. Even if these FMC vendors were able to add RIM devices to their supported stable, it is likely that enterprise customers do not have a widely installed base of BlackBerrys that offer Wi-Fi at all. Over the last 18 months, RIM has made strides with their Wi-Fi support-integrating very good WLAN radios and with robust-enterprise grade security-but the penetration of these radios into the BlackBerry device portfolio has remained limited. While devices like the BlackBerry Bold, the BlackBerry 8820, or the Curve 8320 offer Wi-Fi support, the vast majority of deployed BlackBerries do not. Even new flagship models like the forthcoming BlackBerry Storm will not have Wi-Fi in its initial incarnation. Through partner relationships, however, RIM is offering a subset of the FMC functionality. Through its middleware solution, Ascendant Systems offers BlackBerry customers the one-number point of contact, integrated voicemail and enterprise PBX dial-tone on their smartphones that we see with other FMC solutions, but without leveraging Wi-Fi connections for in-office calls that could reduce aggregate cell phone minute usage. eWEEK Labs Senior Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Windows Mobile-based phones are also commonly supported, but the support gets dicier here. Older Windows Mobile phones may not offer efficient Wi-Fi radios, and the devices are occasionally not designed to route VOIP audio to the headset speaker. Indeed, during my recent tests of both the Agito and Divitas FMC platforms, in both cases I found that I needed to perform firmware upgrades on relatively recent smartphones such as the AT&T Tilt (which is an HTC device) in order for the smartphone to work properly.