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What you need to know: This weblog captures key data points about the global telecoms industry. I use it as an electronic notebook to support my work for Pringle Media.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

One number, many devices

This post is sponsored by the Enterprise Mobile Hub and BlackBerry

An elegant solution to patchy indoor coverage and exhausted batteries.

For most people, so-called unified communications (UC) remains a pipe dream. As they juggle their personal and professional lives, many people still have multiple telephone numbers, email accounts and messaging IDs. That makes life unnecessarily complex.

Soft-launched two months ago by O2 in the U.K., TU Go is designed to change that by enabling you to use your mobile number to make and receive calls and exchange text messages from Wi-Fi-only tablets and PCs, as well as mobile phones. How is it faring in the marketplace? Is it meeting the pent-up demand for more simplicity?

The Brits that have downloaded the app are using it for between 10% and 15% of their communications, according to Stephen Shurrock, CEO of New Business Ventures, Telefónica Digital, who was speaking at the TM Forum in Nice last week. In an interview, Shurrock said TU Go has been “very well received” by the customers invited to use the service. He added that O2 UK will begin promoting TU Go over the summer and the service will also be launched in Argentina. Although Shurrock didn’t give much detail on how the service is being used, his remarks suggest Telefónica believes TU Go has a market.

Stephen Shurrock told the TM Forum that
TU Go is gaining traction
Tu Go isn’t available for business customers yet, but I suspect those British employees working in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environment, will bring TU Go into the office, as that is where a cloud-based mobile number could really come into its own.

Circumventing capacity and coverage problems
Capacity and coverage problems can make cellular networks all but unusable in crowded office blocks. But a cloud-based mobile number can overcome these issues by enabling employees to easily use the corporate Wi-Fi network to make and receive mobile calls.  Some 61% of mid-to-large companies in the U.S. and 50% in Germany have had indoor mobile coverage and/or capacity problems, according to a survey commissioned by SpiderCloud Wireless. As SpiderCloud sells indoor wireless solutions it has a vested interest in talking up this issue, but those figures ring true to me.

Although there are, of course, many other UC solutions out there, they have generally been built for enterprises rather than consumers. In the era of the consumerisation of IT and BYOD, the boundaries between work and personal lives have blurred – employees want to use the same UC app at home and at work. If you are stuck late in the office, it would be great to be able to use your laptop to quickly fire off a text message to your spouse or children.

Moreover, in a BYOD environment, being able to use a single mobile number across multiple devices gives employees considerable flexibility. If they are in the field and the battery life on their smartphone is running low, they can use their tablet to make a call, safe in the knowledge that their contact’s handset will recognize their mobile number.  (Some 40 percent of online U.S. adults now have a tablet, according to research released by the Consumer Electronics Association.)

The TU Go concept is particularly well suited to the UK, where the mobile networks are pretty ropey and there is a great deal of public Wi-Fi, much of it free, enabling mobile Wi-Fi calling. BT, the incumbent telco, said recently, that it now has more than five million Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK and Ireland, having added more than 20,000 new hotspots each week over the past year.

For mobile operators, extending the mobile number across platforms and across Wi-Fi is an important strategic play that will help them fend off the competition from over-the-top voice and messaging services.  Seamless support for Wi-Fi needs to be a standard feature of any “mobility as a service’ offering.

Other mobile operators are likely to follow Telefónica’s lead and launch TU Go-style services, ushering in further fixed-mobile convergence (FMC).  And it won’t be long before such services infiltrate the enterprise – CIOs need to start thinking now about what this new kind of FMC will mean for their company and its existing systems and solutions.

Unified communications is about to go mass market.

This post is sponsored by the Enterprise Mobile Hub and BlackBerry

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