BT plans to introduce a service to let business customers make voice calls on BlackBerry devices using office Wi-Fi networks, rather than cellular networks.
On Tuesday, the company announced it will integrate Research In Motion's BlackBerry Mobile Voice Service (MVS) with its Communications Complete unified-communications platform. The service is expected to be introduced in the autumn.
Using Wi-Fi in the office (or over a VPN, in the case of home workers) could reduce mobile communication costs by as much as 60 percent, BT said. Most companies will not achieve anything like that cost saving, but even a 10 percent reduction would be compelling for SMEs and larger companies with significant numbers of mobile workers, according to Evan Kirchheimer, a principal analyst at Ovum.
"This kind of technology could pay for itself within months, and it's absolutely critical for companies to offer support for the BlackBerry, which is the de facto standard enterprise mobile-data device," Kirchheimer said.
From later this year, BlackBerry users will also be able to make voice calls using BT Openzone public Wi-Fi hotspots, with the device switching without pause to a cellular network when the user leaves the hotspot. Customers will also be able to use BT's unified communications applications on BlackBerry devices, including single voicemail boxes and unified messaging.
"This means smaller companies can integrate everyone with the existing communications system and all those applications, regardless of where they're working," said Alison Ricketts, head of Cisco propositions at BT. The company's Communications Complete platform is based on Cisco's Unified Communications 500 (UC500) Series technology.
Kirchheimer expects similar announcements to follow from Avaya, Siemens and Cisco. "These companies are all probably within six months of each other, and are all aggressively pursuing the iPhone and BlackBerry markets, while companies such as Agito are already enabling Wi-Fi support for MVS," he said.
Companies wishing to deploy Communications Complete with support for MVS will pay between £5,000 and £12,000, depending on the number of devices, Ricketts said, adding that existing customers will pay around £2,000 to upgrade an existing UC500 system.