The more I think about it, the more frustrated I find it that our mobile, telecom, and data networks just can’t seem to integrate with each other. On the one hand I understand that the incumbents don’t want to upset the status quo, but is this really the best we can do?
The other night I was having a chat with Steve Lecomte of Iotum, and we were trying to understand why concepts that seem simple to understand are next to impossible to implement. Sure, it’s easier to talk about something than to do it, but what if all of the required technologies have been in existence for many years (decades in some cases)?
As an example, why can’t a modern business tie it’s mobile workers into the corporate voice network, so that they become extensions of the main system? I have actually seen this done (using the SS7 backbone that ties all telecom networks together), but it was done in kludgy manner simply because the local carrier was never going to play along (the cell phone used an eastern European SIM card, so the digits dialed were sent to the overseas cell carrier, who then sent them back to an Asterisk system in North America which processed the call). The concept is proven, but to make this a reality the carriers have to allow customers more control over what happens to digits dialed from a mobile phone. For many companies, this would make a lot of sense. When a user dials “0″, they get reception. When a call is made from the PBX to a mobile extension, the cell phone rings (yes, I know this can be done, but currently it’s a hack; little more than an external call forward). When I’m in a meeting, reception should see that the status of the cell phone is set to do-not-disturb; all calls dialed out from the cell phone should use the corporate dial plan; if the user leaves the company, the cell phone stops working; etc.
This stuff is not technically that difficult to implement. All of the required technology already exists. Sure, it’s not going to be as simple as I am making it sound, but this is totally achieveable, and from the discussions I have had with people, this would be very desirable.
We are all contemplating he day when we can use WiFi phones to freely roam wherever we want. Is this becasue it is a better technology? No; it is because the cell phone companies are not providing what we want, and thus enterprising (or perhaps just desperate) people are going to finding other ways. Will we reach a day when all those cell phone networks become obsolete?
So what’s the problem? We probably all have many ideas as to what the answer is, and I won’t claim to have a complete answer, but part of the problem has got to be the fact that none of the big players has made the decision to make this happen.
Something similar to this concept was tried in the mid 90s, with PBX vendors offering ways to pass cell phone calls onto the PBX when in the building, but that never worked very well. One reason was that there was no guarantee the phone would connect to the corporate cell antenna, so the benefits could not be guaranteed. Also, when the user was away from the corporate office (which was most of the time), none of the benefits of being tied to the corporate PBX were realized.
Perhaps what it will take is a large corporate or government organization to insist that it happen. An example of this is the AMIS voicemail networking protocol. Nobody’s voicemail system would network with another until the mighty Coca Cola Corporation pretty much demanded that the major PBX vendors find a way to make it happen. They did, and everyone benefited (too bad VPIM didn’t fare as well, but I might write about that some other time).
I am not sure what it will take to make this happen, but I shake my head in frustration every time I think about it. Technically, this does not have to be that complicated, and for modern businesses, it sure would make a lot of sense.
And that’s just phone calls. What happens when the corporate network is able to push applications out to the mobile phone?