Fixed Mobile Convergence : Evolution or Revolution ?

The last couple of months have seen a flurry of reports on the subject of the future prospects for Fixed Mobile Convergence (from, for example, Pyramid Research and IDC) which has, in turn, spawned a flurry of web articles and blog comment on the same subject. The consensus among most of these reports is that Fixed Mobile Convergence (or FMC) adoption is set to grow over the next few years and that those companies who are investing in it are, in the main, investing wisely.

However, how users (or should that be prospective users) view the move towards FMC is more difficult to judge. In an article on Computing.co.uk, a research Director from IDC describes how their recent report outlines their view that operators (at least in Western Europe) are finding it difficult to sign up customers to FMC services.

Apparently, the report goes on to suggest that FMC should not be sold as a new or differentiated service but, instead, should be marketed as a complement or extension to existing broadband and home network products. This seems sensible although it is a strategy which assumes that target customers have a good understanding of home networking, WiFi and associated technologies (some aspects of which are, well, less than intuitive in their current form).

Another interesting question is whether consumers (many of whom know little or nothing about FMC) are actually asking for the kind of services it can provide. This particular point is answered in a most interesting way in a recent blog entry by Carl Weinschenk on ITBusinessEdge.com which, for me, provided one of those, "I wish I had written that" moments !

Carl’s main point is encapsulated in his title – "They don’t know it, but users are driving FMC". He goes on to describe how it is users who are driving the trajectory of communications technology towards FMC by increasingly seeing "little or no distinction between what they can do with either [wired or mobile devices]". Essentially, the use of features such as syncing between devices and agile switching between networks has created an increasingly seamless feel to the way in which differing device types are used.

Of course there is a definite step between this "seamless feel" and true FMC but the point is that users are indicating, through their use of current technology, how they want technology to evolve into the future. So, for example, a line drawn forward from those technologies which are in widespread use today such as Web browsing, Email, VoIP, IM, Multimedia content and enhanced mobility (in general) could lead us to a point where truly unified FMC devices could be in widespread use tomorrow.

Maybe the lesson from the IDC report is that these new devices will be more readily accepted if marketed and sold as advanced but evolutionary fixed network devices rather than revolutionary mobile devices.