Home Africa and the Middle EastAfrica and the Middle East 2008 The coming of age of voice and data convergence

The coming of age of voice and data convergence

by david.nunes
Khalid LabanIssue:Africa and the Middle East 2008
Article no.:13
Topic:The coming of age of voice and data convergence
Author:Khalid Laban
Title:VP
Organisation:Aruba Networks MENA
PDF size:240KB

About author

Khalid Laban is Vice President of Aruba Network’s sales organisation in the Middle East and North Africa. He has over 20 years of experience in the IT industry, working with companies such as Cisco Systems, Bay Networks, and Fore Systems in the region. Mr Laban earned a masters degree in Computer Engineering.

Article abstract

Khalid Laban is Vice President of Aruba Network’s sales organisation in the Middle East and North Africa. He has over 20 years of experience in the IT industry, working with companies such as Cisco Systems, Bay Networks, and Fore Systems in the region. Mr Laban earned a masters degree in Computer Engineering.

Full Article

A new generation of people are entering the workplace today, a generation that truly understand the concept of convergence and mobility, because unlike any generation before them they have grown up connected – but unwired. There are more than 3 billion mobile phone subscriptions today; one for every second person on the planet, and there are few people on the planet that do not have access to, or are not covered by, a cellular network. In the majority of developed countries, students have, for years, carried – and to the frustration of teachers, used – mobile phones at school. They also use them on the journey to and from school and, of course, at home and when out with their friends. For them, the idea of being able to text or call someone and the expectation of having them instantly available has become part of their life. The concept of complete mobility is one that we have all come to expect from our mobile phone. We drive across a country and give no thought to the fact that the phone calls we make are never interrupted by the transitions between cells. We land at an airport in a foreign country, switch on our phone and never give it a moment’s thought that we can immediately start making calls. What perhaps is even more impressive is that the instant the telephone is switched on incoming calls are routed to the phone wherever you are. The single most difficult thing that a user has to accomplish to use the phone – is find the on-off switch. The cellular phone network is a perfect example of the maxim ‘people move, networks must follow’. While we have become used to voice mobility, data mobility is fast catching up. For the first time, in 2007 the sales of laptop computers exceeded the sales of desktop PCs, and virtually all of those laptops are equipped with WiFi interfaces. WiFi has become the de-facto method of mobile connection in homes, in offices and in many parts of a city, from parks to coffee shops. 3G cellular networks of course provide additional coverage for people on the move, but it is WiFi that is built into laptops that is the automatic choice indoors. Among students, although laptops may not yet be as common as the cellular phone, many do own or have regular access to laptops. Even in less economically developed countries (LEDC), the ‘US$100 Laptop’ or similar projects, puts mobility into the hands of students; each laptop comes equipped with WiFi. Converged use of voice and data applications – from Skype to Instant Messenger – means that even the student in a remote village can be part of a global community. Until recently, only laptops were WiFi enabled, but cell phones are increasingly coming equipped with WiFi. Originally found only in high-end executive phones, WiFi connectivity is now found in consumer phones – the iPhone for example. WiFi on the phone enables the device to be used more effectively as a converged device – allowing voice and text calls over the cellular network, and Internet connection or instant messaging over the WiFi network, when the cellular network is too slow or – more likely – too expensive. The result is that today, people are entering the workplace with a view of mobility that goes far beyond the belief that it could be useful. Their view is that mobility is expected. Their expectation of devices is driven by the latest converged platforms that allow them to access voice and data wherever they are, whenever they want. Beyond the social aspect of communication and Internet browsing, how is wireless mobility – invariably based upon WiFi – used in business to benefit people and organisations? In hospitals Healthcare is mobile – perhaps more any other industry – it leads in implementing wireless mobility solutions that others follow. From the consultant in the ward moving between patients’ beds, to roadside accident triage, wireless networks have made an immense difference to patient care and the efficiency of healthcare professionals; it is a major contributor to the development of clinical excellence. Computing platforms such as the MCA allow caregivers access to the complete suite of data from a single terminal, converging all key data in a way that greatly improves clinical care. The ready availability of key patient information at the point of need and the ability to quickly access information to optimise clinical care lies at the heart of deployment of mobility solutions inside – and outside – hospitals. From accessing electronic patient records at the bedside without having to return to the nursing station or office, and allowing records to be updated directly reducing the risk of errors, to tracking the location of drugs and reconciling dosage information, wireless networks are making hospitals a safer, more efficient place to work – and be a patient. In education Wireless connectivity offers much to students and professors alike in schools, colleges and universities – the wireless connectivity found nowadays in even the most basic of laptops is put to good use in both LEDCs and their more economically advantaged neighbours. For the institution, wireless offers considerable cost savings in infrastructure deployment. Instead of installing cable throughout the campus, delivering hundreds, or even thousands of wired connection points for students, a single wireless access point per room is often sufficient to deliver connectivity to dozens of students at a time. For the student equipped with a WiFi laptop, or phone, information to help in their studies is available no matter where they are sitting – in a lecture room, the library, or in the cafeteria; this makes the whole learning process more efficient. In business Enabling employees to handle their jobs more efficiently is a challenge for every organisation. Some surveys suggest that a mobility-enabled workforce can be up to 30 per cent more efficient in their day-to-day work. In a mobile environment, the concept of ‘office’ is less of a physical location than simply the ability to work. Whether at a customer’s site, hotel room in the evening, or at home, the office environment can now be extended seamlessly and securely via wireless networks, allowing employees to work wherever they are by using a secure – perhaps even encrypted – connection to their offices. Although there are now many cellular handsets that offer voice and data convergence (voice and Internet access), many organisations are just starting to explore the way in which fixed-mobile convergence can benefit their business. By combining cellular telephones and the internal wireless data networks, employees can use a single telephone handset, have it operate as a cell phone when outside the office, but as an internal phone when it is within the office. This sort of automatic, location-dependent, handoff between mobile and fixed access networks using the same handset can generate substantial savings. Customers need only call a single telephone number, and their calls will be routed over the cellular network or office network directly to where the employee is located. Today, the problem for many companies is that their employees have come to rely almost exclusively upon their cellular phones, where all their contact telephone numbers are stored, that they do not hesitate to use their cellular phone to make a call from within the office. Various surveys have placed the number of cellular calls from within an office as high as 30 per cent; generally speaking, such calls typically cost considerably more than on a landline. One of the key objectives of fixed-mobile convergence is to offer the flexibility of cellular mobility with which so many people are comfortable, with the cost saving obtained using the company’s internal telephony system. Just as the automobile has become such an integral part of the lifestyles of people in the 20th century – mobility and convergence – the ability to access data and reach anyone anywhere, anytime – is becoming an integral part of the lives of those growing up in the early 21st century. The saying that ‘information is power’ has never been truer; mobility and convergence means that information has never been easier to access.

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