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Sunday, April 17, 2011

When instant communication converges: Instant communications ecosystems

The key difference between instant and traditional voice communications—especially when it comes to the user experience—is, not surprisingly, its immediacy. Mobile instant communication takes many forms, with the most widespread being, Short Message Service (SMS), Mobile instant messaging (IM), Push-to-talk (PTT, or as it is increasingly called push-to-talk over cellular or PoC). Immediacy also differentiates most9 instant messaging solutions from store-and-forward technologies such as e-mail. Indeed, the instant messages sent by one user immediately appear on the other user’s device after the session is established, instead of being stored and downloaded from a server by an e-mail client at certain fixed intervals.

Instant communications convergence is already well underway, with gateways and applications being deployed enabling short messaging and instant messaging between mobile and fixed devices. As various proprietary approaches become interoperable and more integrated, the remaining boundaries between fixed and mobile messaging become more blurred. These trends in turn may spur new rounds of standardization efforts, establishment of closer ties between different service providers, and eventually, creation of a global messaging network similar to the PSTN of today, which may very well be the final step in creating the elusive converged or unified messaging system—a concept of linking all types of messaging under the same service.

Certain elements of such a system, like gateways and servers supporting the ability to exchange SMS, MMS, and IM between mobile and fixed devices, are already being put in place by operators creating an early foundation for such systems. The next logical phase would be adding PoC (PTT over Cellular) to the mix and enabling the support of all these types of messaging on the VoIP and dual-mode or multimode FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence)terminals via dedicated bundled clients.

On the application and user interface levels, service providers could start introducing the “universal messenger” functionality consisting of the common client with a standard user interface on the mobile phone, fixed phone, and desktop, or providing Web-based fixed- and mobile-optimized application options. The latter would extend instant communications to all devices as long as a fast enough data pipe is available along with a system supporting transcoding of all the message types to formats acceptable by clients on different devices. One possible solution enabling such a ubiquitous instant communication nirvana in the not-too-distant future is represented in the figure below;
With such systems users would have the full array of instant communication services at their fingertips regardless of device, location, or type of access, freely selecting the communication method that best suits their needs at any given moment.
Take a look at this video that provides a good insight into FMC.

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