BT unites mobile and fixed business telephony

Dual-mode handsets based on BT's domestic Fusion product are now being targeted at businesses

BT has extended its fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) strategy into businesses, with the announcement of technology to shift staff mobile calls onto company IP networks.

The system, known as Corporate Fusion and launched on Thursday, uses a similar approach to the existing domestic BT Fusion system, which offers dual-mode handsets that switch between Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and standard GSM coverage depending on their proximity to a wireless "hub".

Research from analyst company Gartner has suggested that more than half of all employees' mobile phone calls are made in the office where they can take advantage of cheaper routing over a company's IP network.

The service is being trialled first by Leeds City Council, which BT says has the largest in-house ICT provision of any local authority in the UK. The council's ICT head, Adrian Fegan, said FMC "allows us to operate more efficiently, by reducing our telecoms spend, which is critically important for an organisation spending public funds".

Corporate Fusion is BT's branding of Enterprise FMC, a service which the company has been developing with Alcatel.

Fusion could make Wi-Fi even more popular, BT's chief of converged communication services, Steve Andrews, suggested. BT recently hinted that Wi-Fi would provide better performance than Bluetooth, the wireless technology used in the first handsets for BT Fusion.

BT has been investing a great deal recently in its plans to create "wireless cities" across the UK, providing widespread Wi-Fi coverage. It currently operates a vast network of hot spots in the UK.

Embedded Wi-Fi in phones has come in for some criticism, though, due to the impact it has on battery life. Picocells — small cellular base stations that can be installed in the office to divert GSM or 3G calls onto the company's IP network — also provide a rival technology to GSM/Wi-Fi dual-mode devices.

Also on Thursday, BT predicted growth in its international operations, suggesting revenue from the US, Japan, India and China would more than double by 2008/9. It also claimed Italy and Germany would each achieve a billion-euro turnover in the same period.