M1 has its eye on FMC

CEO Neil Montefiore says the company is looking at a fixed-mobile convergence service where users can make voice calls over mobile and fixed-line networks.

SINGAPORE--MobileOne (M1) is considering a fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) service that lets cellphone users make cheaper calls at home, according to the company's head honcho.

Speaking at the CommunicAsia conference here this week, Neil Montefiore, CEO of M1, revealed that the company may offer a FMC service based on femtocell base stations.

FMC technology allows cellphone users to make and receive calls using their home fixed-line broadband and cellular services, using a single phone number. This can be facilitated through a femtocell base station, which includes both GSM and Wi-Fi capabilities.

ABI Research estimates there will be 102 million users of femtocell products on 32 million access points worldwide by 2011. Besides FMC services, femtocell also gives operators a platform in the home, where additional features such as Wi-Fi and IPTV can be included, the analyst company noted in a study last year.

But before any FMC service can be offered, Montefiore said, a few kinks need to be ironed out. For example, the handover process, where cellphones switch between cellular and fixed-line networks for voice calls, should be as seamless as possible, Montefiore told ZDNet Asia, adding that he will be in Sweden next week to look at Ericsson's FMC products.

Although M1 currently does not offer fixed-line broadband services, the company is reportedly interested in doing so through Singapore's upcoming national broadband network (NBN). The winner of the tender to build the NBN will be announced this year, after which the project is expected to be completed within five years.

Montefiore said that the open access nature of the NGN is important for M1 to compete effectively with rivals SingTel and StarHub. "We'll be able to have access to high-speed infrastructure," he noted. "Right now, we only have wireless broadband."

M1's wireless broadband service, which is based on high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA), was commercialized in December 2006. Montefiore revealed that the take-up of M1 Broadband has been positive, with subscriber numbers growing at 20 percent every month. So far, there are more than 35,000 M1 broadband subscribers, he added.

SingTel is the first operator in Singapore to offer FMC services. Earlier this year, the telco unveiled its Generation mio triple play packages which includes free local fixed-line calls, broadband and cellphone services. The packages involve the use of a wireless router with FMC capabilities to allow users to switch between cellular and fixed-line broadband for voice calls. However, users will require dual-mode cellphones with both Wi-Fi and GSM radios.

In March this year, analyst company Ovum urged operators to ditch dual-mode cellphones and embrace other technologies to get FMC off the ground. These include allowing users to assume a single identity on multiple platforms and networks, like what Google and Yahoo have done.