Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) is the technological convergence of fixed and mobile services. It offers a way to connect a mobile phone to a fixed line infrastructure so that operators can provide services to their users irrespective of their location, access technology, and terminal.
FMC enables converged services across the fixed, mobile and internet environments. In FMC, the same handset can access the services through a fixed network in addition to a wireless network. It can be used in home or office and also while traveling. Initially, FMC had too many technical approaches and too few standards. After several standardization activities were carried out, the industry coalesced around the dual mode WiFi/cellular approach.
The methodology and characteristics of FMC implementation varies among operators. Fixed and broadband service providers use FMC solutions to increase the number of services they provide and mobile service providers use FMC to accelerate mobile substitution with local-area technology like Wi-Fi to enhance service and network performance in the home and office environments.
There are two essential technologies necessary for FMC.
- Short-range connectivity over a wireless link such as WiFi
- Software to handover from a mobile network to a fixed line network.
A WiFi enabled handset will switch over from Mobile Network 1 to a WiFi base station whenever it is in range and use the fixed line for data and voice transmission.
Wi-Fi integration allows dual-mode devices to enable mobile connections that are routed over wireless local-area and broadband networks in consumer, small office/home office (SOHO), and small and medium business (SMB) environments. Some of the solutions of FMC are UMA and IMS.
Few examples of FMC are:
The Key frameworks that form the basis for convergence are
- Mobility – is related to users moving with wireless access capability. Aspects to consider are identifying the user, location, presence, attributes and preference of the user, identification of registrar, and service node.
- Session -is related to managing sessions originating and terminating in both the fixed and mobile environments. Aspects to consider are control over sessions, admission control, charging, transport, connectivity, naming and addressing schemes, and address resolution protocols.
- QoS – is related to the quality of service delivered. Aspects to consider are QoS classes, Bearer negotiation,Interaction between QoS and Session control, Resource reservation, and QoS assured pre-conditions.
- Security – is related to the threat analysis and the counter measures for threats. Aspects to consider are authentication, authorization and auditing.
- Services and Service capabilities – are building blocks to develop standardized or unique services.
There are plenty of ways to accomplish FMC. The most common FMC configuration scenarios include
- Wireless Substitution – the user abandons his landline phone in favor of wireless.
- Voice over Wireless Local Area Network (VoWLAN) – The handset has a radio to connect to WiFi within the home or office and traditional cell networks to access outside the home or office.
- Fixed Cellular – It is not a true form of FMC. The user gets services through a wireless network instead of a wired network, but the handset cannot be transported.
Fixed-Mobile Convergence Alliance (FMCA) is a global organization formed in mid-2004 focuses on giving FMC customers with high-quality, seamless and easy to use products and services. It has a growing membership base of 25 top telecom operators who own both fixed and mobile networks. British Telecom, NTT, Rogers Wireless, Brasil Telecom, Korea Telecom and Swisscom are responsible for forming this alliance. http://www.thefmca.com
- UMA – Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) also referred as Pre-IMS offers access to GSM and GPRS mobile services over unlicensed spectrum technologies like Bluetooth, WiMax, or Ultra Wideband (UWB) etc. UMA aims to enable feature transparency for basic voice and messaging services by providing a specific mechanism for delivering the GSM protocols over IP on a Wi-Fi bearer. UMA architecture has an overlaid wireless LAN network to connect to an existing cellular network via a UMA controller. The Wireless LAN access points are implemented in user environments and connect to the UMA controller via domestic broadband connections. The access points use either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to facilitate LAN connectivity to dual-mode UMA-enabled handsets. The handset transfers between the respective networks whenever it moves between the coverage of the local and wide-area network environments.
- IMS – IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) is a standard architecture based on SIP that allows multiple real-time applications to run across a single network. It can be used by any type of access method such as a fixed line, GSM, CDMA2000, WCDMA, Wireline broadband access, WiFi or WiMax. It has unified network service delivery architecture with intelligent networking (IN) and advanced intelligent networking (AIN) features. It provides a converged control plane solution for managing near-real-time applications and facilitates seamless mobility across various network environments.
FMC and IPv6
IPv6 is believed to offer the ultimate core network for FMC. The compelling reason in case of fixed services to switch to IPv6 is IPv4 address space exhaustion due to “always on” services of business and entertainment. The same reason holds good even for mobile services as IPv4 address space exhausts due to “always on” services of IMS. At present, there are less than 128 class A networks that are capable of providing at most 16 million IPv4 addresses. But some mobile network operators already have more than 20 million customers. So, using IPv6 in FMC is inevitable and 3GPP mandates IPv6 support in the IIMS and UMTS.
A model of FMC with IPv6 network core