Fixed and Mobile – A marriage of converged convenience

How Gamma Connect bridges the converged fixed / mobile phone divide

Unify Issue 4

For the longest time it was a case of never the twain shall meet. Businesses looking to combine the converged benefits and collaborative working features of an advanced, hard-wired office phone system with the flexibility and convenience of mobile phones had nowhere to turn.

At the same time they were acutely conscious of the cost and maintenance burdens of traditional fixed telephony infrastructure, yet were reluctant to compromise what remained a key channel of communication for staff, customers and partners.

Gamma has bridged the converged fixed/mobile divide with a new converged solution that aims to do for business telephony what the Swiss army did for the pocket knife. Among the first of its kind on the UK market, Gamma Connect lets businesses powerfully augment their fixed telephony estates, and creates a platform for future migration to an all-mobile environment.

The best of both worlds

According to Gamma’s Alan Mackie the service delivers the best of converged fixed and mobile worlds while eliminating the disadvantages.

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Companies like their fixed office systems because they’re easy to manage and control, help meet regulatory and compliance legislation and offer essential features like hunt groups, call recording, IVR, a common inbound and outbound number, and a central phone directory. Mobiles on the other hand have existed largely outside the corporate sphere of influence: hard to regulate, difficult to control and each with its own number.

Alan Mackie

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With Connect, employees’ mobiles and fixed extensions share a single DDI number particular to that individual, or calls may be routed from the business’ published main number. Any outgoing calls will present the same published number regardless of from which device they are made. And critically, mobiles are brought under the corporate umbrella of security, conformance, reporting and scrutiny that is so important in a tightening regulatory climate.

Compelling converged service

Mackie believes many will find the service compelling:

“Take the public sector – healthcare, social and council staff often use their mobiles for work but may not want to reveal their number. Equally the people they are contacting may not trust a mobile number or associate it with the person or organisation with whom they are dealing. Now field workers can be reached more easily and can present the head office number when calling a client, so there’s always someone to answer a return call later.

For the private sector the ability to access hunt groups and teams, have a common voicemail platform, maintain audit trails and voice recordings and analyse how business is being done are important. Previously it was impossible to aggregate that kind of data across fixed and mobile domains.”

The wider converged benefits

Other important drivers for business are improved customer service and reduced costs. Contact with customers becomes easier, more consistent and less fragmented by the transition between fixed and mobile. Meanwhile telecoms costs are set to come down significantly as companies reduce their dependency on PBXs, ISDN lines and desk phones, and as mobile call costs continue to fall.

Mackie predicts a time soon when even in large businesses, mobiles will be the only phones workers need.

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Fewer and fewer people will have a phone on their desk. The whole model has changed. The technology is improving and new functions like presence reporting and auto call routing mean it’s perfectly possible to replace fixed with mobile today.

Alan Mackie

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Gamma’s new service removes certain technical challenges that have so far dogged converged deployments and restricted business take-up: a lack of consistent data coverage and a lack of integration between apps on a phone and its native mobile functionality.

Gamma has worked closely with phone and mobile O/S providers to put everything on the single green call/answer button, while its MultiNet mobile bolt-on service ensures improved coverage for voice and data. And because much of the intelligence behind the system resides within the network any handset may be used, not just smartphones.

New start means better service

Separation from BT following pressure from the industry and from regulator Ofcom is seeing Openreach emerge as a newly refocused and re-energised infrastructure company committed to doing better and reaching further with connections that run faster. It’s great news for customers who should see installs happening sooner, connection speeds getting faster and problems dealt with more promptly.

These messages were underscored by new Openreach MD of business and corporate delivery Kevin Murphy during a recent presentation where he described a more transparent, autonomous and accountable Openreach set on better meeting the connectivity needs of business.

Murphy cited a 20% annual increase in data traffic in the UK with the increasing use of cloud services, video streaming and virtualisation alongside growth in video conferencing, collaboration tools and big data. Also, lower prices were bringing greater demand for Ethernet connectivity from a wider market together with rising calls for dark fibre for large UK projects like 5G and the emergency services network. He said Openreach would meet these challenges in a number of ways including organisational changes, increased staff numbers, improved planning and surveying, a strengthened legal team to resolve wayleave and access issues and more use of overhead networks.

20%

annual increase in data traffic in the UK with the increasing use of cloud services, video streaming and virtualisation alongside growth in video conferencing, collaboration tools and big data

Already the changes are delivering results says Murphy:

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We’ve reduced the backlog of work by around 26%, reduced the average completion time from 85 days down to 55 days and we’re continuing to drive those numbers down. More significantly we’ve cut the number of jobs that were held up by civil, access and traffic management issues by as much as 82% thanks to different working practices and closer co-operation with local authorities.

Kevin Murphy

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Future improvements will include better information flow with civil engineering contractors, a stronger culture of ownership and pride in a job well done, better network health monitoring and record keeping and improved workflows. Technical enhancements will play a role too with more dark fibre and advanced techniques like G.fast to better exploit copper circuits.

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We’re now into the second year of a three-year programme of converged improvement. Year one was about reducing backlogs and times to deliver. Year two is about ramping up speed, certainty and quality.

We have an excellent field engineering team some 25,000 strong and I’ve always believed that good quality engineering leads to great customer service. We will be pushing ahead with some very exacting service level targets and I believe our customers will see a real difference.

Kevin Murphy

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