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Siemens Claims Unmatched WiFi/Cellular Roaming

Roam where you want to, across a WiFi network, and onto a cellular one. You won't be able to notice the difference and it's all with one number, one mailbox and with good quality voice calls, too. That's part of the pitch German networking giant Siemens  is making for HiPath MobileConnect, its latest product for fixed mobile convergence (FMC) users.

The company said the product delivers unmatched fixed mobile convergence with enterprise dual-mode Wi-Fi cellular integration. Luc Roy, VP of product planning for Siemens' mobile enterprise division, said the idea is to provide one number, one voicemail and rich PBX  functionality for mobile enterprise customers.

The HiPath MobileConnect systems provide "the world's first SIP-based, dual-mode WiFi/GSM calling capabilities on a single handset," Roy told internetnews.com.

Part of the Siemens open communications architecture, MobileConnect is geared for Enterprise Fixed Mobile Convenience -- that's right, not the word convergence but convenience -- by tossing fixed enterprise VoIP, Voice over Wireless LAN and cellular mobility on one appliance and device.

SIP , the Session Initiation Protocol application layer control protocol for IP-based telephony, is the glue that makes it stick. Because the product line is based on open standards, it can connect with virtually any SIP-supported IP-PBX, WLAN and dual-mode handset.

By first, Siemens is saying that it is the only major networking communications provider (compared to Avaya, Nortel, Cisco and Alcatel/Lucent) that combines a system that helps customers control calls across VoIP networks – including voice over wireless LAN or cellular. It works as one number, provides one mailbox and integrates with old-fashioned access to existing phone lines in a business (so rip and replace is not a necessity on legacy phone systems).

Siemens may have a point on some of its "first only" claims with the HiPath release. Avaya, for example, provides a platform for all kinds of converged communications, but doesn't feature full SIP standards on some.

That may help explain Avaya's recent $144 million bid for Ubiquity, which specializes in SIP Application Server technology that helps developers do just that: build applications that can communicate with converged communications services and skirt across different wireless and fixed mobile environments.

Roy said MobileConnect takes eFMC and dual-mode to the next stage by extending users' enterprise telephony presence (including IP PBX number, directory, and call features) to the dual-mode handset regardless of where they are. Plus, the product works in conjunction with dual-mode handsets and can automatically route calls to the lowest-cost network, such as Wi-Fi networks, when they are available.

The product comes in two flavors. One is an appliance that would be sited between a business's IP-PBX and its wireless LAN (WLAN) The other is a dual-mode handset client that provides access to the IP-PBX features.

But Siemens faces competitors hot to offer similar end-to-end functionality. Nortel's converged mobility strategy, for example, includes its Wireless Mobility Gateway 6000 (WMG 6000), designed to provide service providers merged 3G wireless networks and personalized multimedia services across wireless, wireline or cable networks.

The WMG 6000, which supports 3GPP (IMS), 3GPP2 (MMD), Packet Cable 2.0 and TISPAN standards, lets service providers merge 3G wireless networks.

Cisco, which offers Unified IP phones and systems, recently said it was patching security issues with its IP-based phones that could allow hackers to launch denial of service (DoS) attacks on networks. As internetnews.com recently reported, Cisco issued an alert that warned of a flaw in a remote conference managing feature that could be exploited remotely as well. A patch is underway.

Plenty of startups sell a similar mobile offering as Siemens', but Roy argues that this is the only VoIP technology offering an end-to-end product for fixed mobile convergence.

Right now the devices supported with the product include the FSC PocketLoox T800 (Windows-Mobile platform), and Nokia's E-60, 61 and 7- lines, on the Symbian operating system as well.