T-Mobile USA, Inc., and enterprise wireless LAN vendor Meru Networks have teamed up to bring fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) to enterprise customers, using unlicensed mobile access (UMA) technology to let users of T-Mobile devices roam between outdoor cellular infrastructures and indoor Wi-Fi networks without experiencing any interruption to their calls.
T-Mobile has joined Meru's WINS (Wireless Interoperability and Network Solutions) Partner Program, and the two companies have completed interoperability testing of UMA-equipped T-Mobile devices with Meru enterprise WLANs. The testing verified seamless "handoffs" between Meru WLANs and the T-Mobile cellular network. The companies have also agreed to conduct joint marketing and sales activities.
The work done by Meru and T-Mobile is designed to let enterprises save on phone costs as increasing numbers of employees use their cell phone as their primary work phone: whenever end users move onto a Meru virtual cell Wi-Fi network, they no longer eat into the allotted number of minutes in their cell phone plan.
Phillip Redman, a Gartner research vice president who authored the recent report, "Enterprise Mobile Phones Will Replace Desktop Phones in North America," said, "The number of mobile-phone-only users in enterprises is expected to increase six-fold over the next four years. This means enterprises need to start looking now for ways to increase the efficiency and mitigate the costs of their voice communication infrastructures. One effective means of doing this is to combine in-building wireless voice with external cellular services."
T-Mobile is the first national carrier with an FMC offering targeted at enterprises, and the first to leverage UMA technology, which provides GSM/GPRS mobile devices with access to Meru enterprise WLANs over unlicensed spectrum bands. T-Mobile's dual-mode lineup includes devices from BlackBerry, Nokia and Samsung.
Dave Fredericks, national director for products solutions and planning for T-Mobile, said, "Meru's innovative wireless virtualization technology makes it an ideal fit for a venture that bridges the cellular and Wi-Fi environments. UMA technology ensures a seamless experience in moving between networks. Once users move onto the WLAN, Meru's virtualized WLAN architecture guarantees they'll have the same experience as on cellular, because the use of a single RF channel enterprise-wide eliminates handoff interruptions and co-channel interference. After seeing how our dual-band phones operate over the Meru WLAN, we are confident that the use of UMA technology will change the nature of the enterprise voice experience."
Sarosh Vesuna, Meru's vice president of business development, said, "Meru has already installed some of the nation's largest production enterprise FMC solutions. Our work with T-Mobile will provide our enterprise customers with a new level of flexibility in their mobile communications. Users can initiate a call using Meru's voice-over-Wi-Fi infrastructure at home, continue their conversation in the car on the cell network, and move onto the Meru wireless LAN when they arrive at the office ... all with the same device and with no disruption when moving between networks. T-Mobile's collaboration with Meru will lead to enhanced productivity, seamless coverage, and high-bandwidth access when indoors, and at the same time give enterprises better control over communication costs."
A January 2008 report from New York-based ABI Research, "The Voice Over Wi-Fi Ecosystem," identified Meru's virtual cell, zero-handoff architecture as the WLAN approach best suited for efficiently handling enterprise voice calls without disruption or loss of quality, particularly for roaming users. The report cited Meru as having "a significant advantage because, with all access points operating on a single channel, no handoffs are required. This eliminates the problem of latency, or delay, typically associated with roaming."
In Meru's virtualized WLAN architecture, a single channel is selected for use by all access points enterprise-wide, and a dedicated "virtual port" is assigned to each client device to maximize performance, reliability, and enterprise control over wireless resources. Additional channels can be layered as more capacity is required. This architecture enables toll-quality voice, assured service quality and traffic classification in converged voice-video-data networks. Meru's technology also offers call admission control, which prevents quality-degrading call overloads by moving new voice calls to alternate virtual cell layers; and location- and application-aware quality of service, which allows assignment of priorities to voice traffic according to enterprise policy.
Founded in 2002, Meru Networks develops and markets wireless LAN infrastructure solutions that use virtualization to deliver pervasive, high-fidelity wireless service for business-critical voice, video and data applications. The company first introduced its award-winning virtual cell wireless architecture in 2003, and Meru products embody a complete departure from typical hub-based WLAN approaches, offering a wireless solution with levels of performance, reliability, security and cost-effectiveness previously found only in wired networking environments. Meru's solutions have been adopted in all major industry vertical markets, including Fortune 500 enterprises, healthcare, education, retail, manufacturing, hospitality and government. Meru is headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., and has operations in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.
Based in Bellevue, Wash., T-Mobile USA, Inc., is the U.S. operation of Deutsche Telekom AG's Mobile Communications Business, and a wholly owned subsidiary of T-Mobile International, one of the world's leading companies in mobile communications. By the end of the third quarter of 2008, 127 million mobile customers were served by the mobile communication segments of the Deutsche Telekom group - more than 32 million by T-Mobile USA - all via a common technology platform based on GSM, the world's most widely used digital wireless standard. T-Mobile's innovative wireless products and services help empower people to connect to those who matter most.