The next major advances in telecoms will come through the increased integration between mobile and fixed networks, according to network operators and equipment manufacturers speaking at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes on Monday.
Neil Ransom, chief technology officer at network infrastructure company Alcatel, said the technologies that can unify mobile and fixed telecoms will revolutionise the way companies communicate.
Ransom singled out IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) as a key technology that would allow consumers and businesses to seamlessly roam between mobile and fixed networks. IMS provides an extra layer for existing networks that will let voice, video and data services to run in combination using the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP).
One of SIP's most attractive features is its ability to set up sessions using a single, location-independent address even when the user changes terminals -- a key element in establishing applications built around presence.
Ransom claimed that technologies such as IMS and SIP would allow business customers to easily connect their mobile handsets to the office PBX phone system. Using the technology, employees would be able to walk into an office using their mobile which would then automatically connect to the company's PBX using SIP. On leaving, the process would work in reverse with seamless transition back onto the mobile operators network.
BT's Project Bluephone was cited by Ransom as an example of increasing fixed and mobile integration. The Bluephone, due to be officially available late this year, will support both Bluetooth and GSM. This will let customers make calls via their mobile network when out and about, or their landline when at home by connecting to it via Bluetooth. A second version will also support Wi-Fi.
Telecoms consultancy Analysys predicts that by 2009, 50 percent of all voice minutes in Western Europe will be made via mobile phones.
Dave Williams, chief technology officer of mobile operator O2, said IMS technology will make telecommunications infrastructure more intelligent so that increasingly innovative services could be rolled out quickly " It's all about smart pipes as opposed to dumb pipes. At O2 we are all about smart pipes and that is what IMS is all about," he said.