Siemens and Nokia have signed a co-operation agreement for the testing, development and sales of Siemens' fixed-mobile convergence service MobileConnect, the companies announced on Wednesday.
MobileConnect is an appliance that enables seamless handover between business Wi-Fi networks and GSM, so users can make use of one handset for use over both networks. The MobileConnect appliance is unusual in that it sits within the network of a business, rather than a service provider. Nokia manufactures a small range of handsets containing both Wi-Fi and GSM radios.
Fixed-mobile propositions such as MobileConnect result in lower costs for businesses, as outgoing calls made using the mobile handset are priced at landline, not GSM rates.
"It's a direct handover. We call it fixed-mobile convenience," said Gerhard Otterbach, chief marketing operations officer for Siemens Germany. "These systems have to be fault tolerant for ongoing business continuity."
Nokia and Siemens have been collaborating for a year on the project, but Siemens says the legal agreement will intensify the companies' relationship.
Nokia and Siemens will continue to exchange test results, and provide access to each other's customers through joint presentations. Nokia will provide information about its Eseries dual-mode handsets and Intellisync Wireless Email product, while Siemens will provide data about MobileConnect, its VoIP platforms, and wireless LAN infrastructure.
MobileConnect consists of an appliance — which sits on the wired network between the wireless access points and a SIP-enabled PBX — and a software client for the handset. The client mixes the audio signal from both radios, then cuts the connection to one. By default the client routes the data through the business' Wi-Fi network, because GSM is more expensive. When the Wi-Fi signal drops below a threshold, the client transfers the call to GSM.
According to Marcus Birkl, Siemens' German sales manager for HiPath Wireless LAN, the decision when to roam is a key component of the product. "It's about defining the right thresholds," Birkl told ZDNet UK. "What we want to avoid is unnecessary connection to expensive GSM networks."
MobileConnect is currently only available on two handsets — the Nokia E60 series and the Fujitsu Siemens Pocket LOOX. A further 10 handsets are currently undergoing trials for use with the product.
Nokia and Siemens have been collaborating ever more heavily in recent months, as they gear up towards the merger of their networking units into Nokia Siemens Networks, which will be the second-largest telecommunications networking company in the world after Ericsson. The merger is due to complete in the first quarter of 2007.