Certainly, this seamless interoperability has to be about much more than transferring data from one device to another. For example, smart phone users should be able to continue typing their mail messages over their desktop PCs once they walk indoors. Similarly, when they move outdoors, they should be able to keep watching a movie they were until then playing on a PC.
Such interoperability between fixed devices like desktop PCs or even television screens, and the mobile devices like smart phones or tablets, can greatly enhance overall consumer experience, given also due to the assumption that consumers are spending a greater part of their time indoors, which could be either at home or in the office.
The logic of cellular handover employed in mobile phone networks, to keep a telephony session going on even as a caller moves from one cellular area to another, can be borrowed and adjusted to achieve interoperability among different devices.
The idea is to define a whole new logic, and let’s term it as User Access-area Networks (UANs), that can be defined and constructed for handovers between the different ICT devices of a given user. This is also about creating a user-centric view of the network, which would mark a meaningful and much needed shift from the existing set-ups such as local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs). Indeed, the LANs and WANs will continue to stay there as the underlying infrastructures on top of which the UANs can be overlaid.
Both service providers and device vendors can work to make this happen, either independently or in collaboration with each other, and stand to draw greater advantages in terms of better average revenue per user (ARPU) streams and increased customer stickiness and loyalty. For example, service providers can use UANs to drive subscriber commitment for their landline broadband, mobile data as well as other services such as DTH and IPTV. Similarly, vendors can gain increased consumer preference and commitment for their product portfolio as a whole. This can help them consolidate market shares across multiple ICT device segments.
In case of service providers, the application can be network based, while vendors can offer the [handover] feature through a device-based application.
Of course, in the Indian context, regulatory tweaks will be required for consumers to be able to realise the true benefits of interoperability. In particular, given that there still are some limitations when it comes to using PCs for telephony purposes, especially in the context of VoIP, PCs’ interoperability with the mobile devices will remain an incomplete experience for the consumer. It’s time that we start working on the necessary modifications or workarounds to achieve an environment that can foster interoperability.
(As published in Deccan Chronicle, Feb 10, 2011.)
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