|Europe I 2007
|Fixed and mobile wireless convergence
|Transport of the Republic of Latvia
Ainārs Šlesers is the Minister for Transport of the Republic of Latvia. He is the Chairman of the Latvian First Party, and has been an elected member of the Saeima, Latvia’s unicameral parliament, since 1998 where he is the Chairperson of the Budget and Finance (Taxation) Committee. In the past, Mr Šlesers has also served his country as its Deputy Prime Minister and as the Chairperson of the Council of the Unified Strategy and Development of the National Economy and as its Minister for Economics. Mr Šlesers has also worked as the General Director of Varner Hakon Invest Ltd., the General Director of Rimi Baltija Ltd., Chairman of the Board and President of Supermarket ‘Centres’ JSC, General Director of Varner Baltija Ltd., President of Skandi Ltd., and as the President of the Latvian-Norwegian joint venture, the Latvian Information and Commerce Centre (in Norway). Ainārs Šlesers is a graduate of the Riga Industrial Technical College and the Christian folk college in Norway. He also studies at The Latvian Christian Academy.
To reap the benefits of fixed mobile convergence, Latvia is working to establish a stable legal environment that conforms with the objectives set forth by the established strategy of the Latvian Ministry of Transport. Among the government’s highest priorities is the development, using IMS tools, of IP-based converged fixed/mobile business communications systems. Converged systems provide company workers, wherever they may be, with the same internal access to company personnel and systems, which they could previously access only at their offices.
Establishing a stable legal environment for the communications industry in Latvia is one of the objectives set out in the strategy of the Latvian Ministry of Transport. Technically, this means further convergence of the various services provided by the communications industry and making them widely accessible to the general public. The above-mentioned aim is dictated by the objective reality and the requirements of the electronic communications market. They call for the development of the business voice communication systems and the convergence of the fixed and mobile infrastructures into a unified system. Mobility in the business environment is a prerequisite for efficient and effective management of the national economy and business processes. This can be ensured by developing the business voice communications potential using mobile devices at the same level of functionality, stability and security as that achieved through the use of fixed line and IP telephony services. The trend of development in the electronic communications market has proved that a fixed-only operator, an operator providing only fixed communications services, will not be able to withstand the competition in the electronic communications market of tomorrow, as there is an increasing demand from corporate clients to integrate their mobile and fixed communications. Currently, the above tendency is seen, for example, in Sweden, where the convergence of corporate fixed and mobile communications is under way. This fixed-mobile convergence lets one use wireless connections to connect to the fixed network in a corporate building through the use of mobile phones, and – for communications outside a building – to switch back to the mobile communications network. This implies that public fixed line communication operators should prepare themselves to enter the mobile phone communications sector and gradually work towards the full convergence of mobile and fixed line communications. This will enable end users to start making their calls over a mobile device through the fixed line network from their homes, then switch over to the mobile network in the street. Later, when entering a shop with access to a wireless Internet, to handover the communications to this wireless network and use the Internet connection to look at some moving pictures or to find some other necessary information. The introduction of the IMS, Internet Protocol Multimedia Subsystem, functionality to the fixed line communications network, simplifies the introduction of this sort of converged service availability. The cooperation between network and handset equipment manufactures, for example, provides great opportunities to widen the scope of business telephony offerings to companies using special handsets designed for business users. The solutions that can be offered provide desktop functionality for mobile phone users. When using solutions such as these, company employees can enjoy the privilege of working at whatever place they prefer and employers retain the same ability to communicate with their staff that they have at their offices while cutting down costs significantly. The IP telephony infrastructure enables businesses to use the advantages offered by the Least Cost Routing, radically reducing the costs of international mobile calls and ensuring better control over total costing of communications. This type of solution provides a higher level of transparency concerning the cost structure of company telephony, making accounting easy and convenient. It can help entrepreneurs determine the expenses generated by each user and each component of their telephony systems. The information obtained from these solutions can help entrepreneurs plan the purchase of the most efficient telephony system for each individual company. Some companies offer integrated, interactive, solutions for communications systems that support both mobile and WiFi networks with dual mode phones. By using mobile phones equipped with business functions, company employees can work from whatever location they must to get the job done. The ability to connect easily any worker, anywhere, to all the people and services available at the company’s installations, the predictable and manageable costs of today’s business communications systems, the customer service improvement they bring, and the variety of facilities they offer users, make these new communications indispensable to businesses. These communications systems are especially advantageous for company employees who travel a lot and those working at home; they also let managers of company IT services focus more easily on the job of connecting workers to the corporate networks from their laptop computers, their smartphone or other portable devices using WiFi or other forms of mobile connectivity while away from their offices. The Global Positioning System, GPS, lets service providers locate devices and provide global positioning services to business users, among others. Since locating the device locates the user, it becomes possible to develop services that add value to mobile communications. Global positioning services make available such interesting things as personnel management, monitoring of movement of transport vehicles in the transportation and logistics business, asset management or online stocktaking, as well as a number of security related applications. Additionally, global positioning services are an extremely effective weapon in the hands of businesses, enabling shopkeepers, restaurants and cinemas to offer their services to people merely passing by in their neighbourhood. In order to achieve the above objectives, close cooperation among operators, technology and contents providers is required, as well as cooperation among the operators themselves. Solutions of this type provided by mobile phone operators help overcome barriers existing between the fixed line and mobile line communications networks, and thus improve the efficiency and effectiveness of business communications, both in offices and outside them and are available also from a number of mobile equipment manufacturers. The largest Latvian fixed line public communications operator – SIA Lattelecom, while getting ready to enter the mobile communications market is widening the range of the services it offers, and will gradually implement a full merger of fixed and mobile communications services and offer services based upon full fixed-mobile convergence. From the point of view of the SIA Lattelecom services user, this implies that in the future he/she will be able to start making a call on the fixed network from his/her home, then, in the street, to switch over to the mobile network; afterwards, when dropping in at a place with a wireless Internet, to hand over [to shift] the conversation to the wireless Internet and to look at some moving images. In case the above-mentioned IMS functionality was implemented into the SIA Lattelecom network, the user would need only a single phone number independent from the type of service or device employed (fixed network, Internet, mobile phone, palmtop computer, etc.). The implementation of IMS will ease the full switchover of any electronic communications network to the Internet protocol, IP. In practice, transmission via IP involves transforming all types of content – voice, datas and video – into data packages that can then be routed over the Internet. At the same time, this permits central control of transmission of voice, video, games or music content and fixing fees to guarantee the quality of communication sessions for video conversations, downloading of games and the like. It is expected that solutions such as these, as well as other solutions being developed by the industry, will make the wide range of fixed network functions available, as well, over the mobile networks. This will ensure that the highly developed regional mobile phone network infrastructure will also be available to all Latvian users.