Convergence of fixed and mobile networks has been an area of interest for telecom operators, and has seen some action in the form of value added services like parallel ringing on the mobile phone and the fixed-line phone.

The concept of fixed mobile convergence (FMC) has been around for a while and dates back to the pre-3G and pre tablet-and-media phone era, when the offerings revolved around voice calling.

With the growth of 3G networks and media phones, especially those equipped with dual cameras, video calling is expected to become an emerging trend, though a desired momentum will come only after the installed base of such devices crosses a threshold. Adoption level of the service a few months down the line will manifest if video calling rates starting at 5 paise per second or Rs 3 per minute are attractive enough at this stage of market development.

Will FMC stay relevant in the era of video calling too? It could, if subscribers are given the option of, say, doing a video call over the PC screen, using the fixed-line broadband network, while they are indoors. This would lead to a greater inclination and stickiness for video calling and while outdoors too, subscribers will more likely be using video calling over their mobile phones.

Today, with parallel ringing, when indoors, a subscriber would prefer picking up an incoming voice call from the landline because of the better connectivity and robustness of the network there. For a video call, there is not a case now for preferring the landline.

But a wider concept of FMC includes not just the traditional fixed-line and wireless networks but also the IP network which is most commonly the Internet. By using IP as part of their FMC approach, telcos could provide greater seamlessness and continuity in terms of consumer experience for their video-based communication services portfolio, of which video calling would be a part. Of course, regulatory issues would need to be addressed along the way.

Applications like Skype could serve an important role in porting calls and other communication services across multiple platforms and devices. It’s interesting that Microsoft has offered to buy Skype to carve a greater relevance for itself in an era of communication where convergence would be accelerating between PC and mobile platforms.

(As published in Deccan Chronicle, May 12, 2011; header modified.)

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