I'm staggered by the amount of blather I hear around the concept of hosted "mobile PBXs". Loads of operators are talking up the proposition, and Broadsoft, Speakanet & assorted others extolling the virtues to me in meetings & conference calls.
"Ditch your lump of Avaya or Nortel tin, and just use your normal mobile phones with some clever gimmickry in the network to set up call groups, easier hold & transfer, and if you're really lucky, cheaper on-net calls to your fellow employees"
My take? It's a niche of a niche.
Fixed variants of hosted PBX, IP Centrex, whatever you want to call it, is sort-of picking up in popularity, albeit from a very low base. Some companies like the idea of outsourcing their phone system to a carrier, with various types & levels of management. OK, fair enough, I can see the point for 10-20% of users at companies who don't want to hire another telecom administrator, or who have lots of remote sites for which PBX installation & management would be a pain.
But how many of these outsource absolutely everything? Not many. Most (especially large enterprises) will keep a lot of their telephony systems in-house, especially if they have call centres, or if they're integrating VoIP with enterprise applications like SAP or Siebel. Again, fair enough if you're using a carrier that has some IT systems integration expertise, perhaps BT's Global Solutions Division, or AT&T.
But a mobile operator, offering mobile centrex? Do you really expect them to support incremental migration from PBX to hosted mobile-based service over a couple of years? Do they have an PBX experts to help with this, or the various bits of IT integration? How will they deal with bits that have to be kept fixed (like call centre agents)? Will they be able to route calls over your shiny new IP-VPN to reduce international call charges? I don't think so.
OK, I can see the argument if you're a startup software company in Helsinki with 11 employees & no legacy PBX or key system. Or perhaps a chunk of your mobile sales force. But anything else? Maybe 1-4% of the overall enterprise marketplace (ie 10-20% of the 10-20% mentioned above).
Oh, and I'd like to see how these services work indoors in large buildings, especially if they use 3G.....
Last point. Any mobile operators out there that can honestly say they run their entire business on mobile? Including their customer service agents, their legal department's fax machines and their reception desks in local offices around the world?