I was at an event yesterday, run by Aepona, speaking about service-layer architectures and business models for mobile operators - IMS, SDPs, capability exposure, web services and so on.
Part of the discussion related to hosted and managed mobility services for business customers, and there was some talk about the long-heralded mobile PBX concept. Bin your PBX and deskphones, give all your employees a single mobile number/device, and host everything in the operator's network, get shortcodes & cheap calls between employees.....
Hmmm. I've been a skeptic of this concept for ages, on numerous grounds - the fact that not all employees are mobile, how do you integrate call centres, how do you integrate with legacy PBXs or non-hosted IT systems like CRM and ERP, how do you migrate over time, how do you deal with multiple geographies, what's the channel.... and so on. Put simply, my view is that it's OK for an 11-person software firm in Helsinki, but it won't fly with large enterprises except possibly for small isolated teams of sales or field-service personnel.
But the event yesterday catalysed my thoughts about another issue. At the moment, there are very few network-resident services that can easily work across multiple operators simultaneously. If you're in procurement for a large enterprise, you almost certainly won't want to lock yourself into a 5-year contract with a single mobile operator. You'll want to dual-source. You'll want to be able to churn. You'll want to be able to have a group of employees with another operator if they get an exclusive & desirable device (eg your CEO wants an iPhone.....).
Yet most of the services like Mobile PBX assume that one operator wins the entire account. This is unrealistic, I think.
So what would be the architecture that would enable a big firm to say "Yes, I want all my staff on mobiles, and a hosted mobile PBX service? But I want to pick & choose between Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange for any given employee, with the option to have CDMA operators for staff in the US and Japan as well".
Tricky. But necessary.