By Eric Griffith
April 17, 2006
Startup Divitas wants to put the enterprise — not the carrier — in charge of fixed/mobile convergence of Wi-Fi and cellular.
There’s no lack of talk about fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) in wireless, but most of it centers around carriers allowing you to make the hand-off leap from their cellular networks to a Wi-Fi network and back again. Divitas Networks, a Mountain View, California startup coming out of stealth mode in time for its first birthday, hopes to address what it calls “a major gap in the communications market” by taking the control of F/MC out of the hands of the carriers and placing it with enterprise IT administrators.
This is in direct contrast to technology like Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA), which keeps the mobile operators in control.
“Our vision: designing and developing a new appliance for the enterprise that goes behind the firewall and meets campus mobility requirements, while also extending functions into the off-campus, cellular space, plus Wi-Fi hotspots and hotzones,” says Rich Watson, the company’s Director of Product Management.The Divitas setup is pretty simple: install their server appliance on the company network and put a Divitas software client on every voice handset supported by the company. The handsets can be Wi-Fi only, cellular only, or dual-mode with both. While Divitas works with all three, the real benefit obviously comes with the dual-mode units.
“Before, if you wanted seamless hand-off [between Wi-Fi and cellular in the enterprise], the obvious solution was to deploy a signaling box in the enterprise to extend the carrier footprint,” says Vivek Khuller, President and CEO of Divitas. “There’s major drawback there, and hasn’t been implemented much.” Divitas says their box will be fairly low-cost and ready for any corporate wireless LAN by comparison, both centralized or decentralized.
The equipment will let them integrate use of third-party applications such as an IP-PBX, and extend the functions they provide to mobile users’ phones no matter where they’re located.
“You’ll only need one number to be reached on campus and off campus,” says Watson. The numbers for the supported phones get plugged into the system, so there’s no need for the enterprise in question to have a special relationship with any particular mobile carrier. In fact, if they’ll be paying for corporate use of employees’ mobile phones, they can work with any carrier out there — the only limitation is having a handset that can support the Divitas client software.
The company is not just going to hope enterprises come to it, but is actively pursuing deals with companies in the WLAN infrastructure, PBX and handset markets. Divitas put out separate announcements today spelling out direct relationships with G-Tek Electronics Group (a dual-mode SIP-based handset maker) and Trapeze Networks, maker of the Mobility System WLAN switch infrastructure equipment. Trapeze said the interoperability with Divitas makes it the first to demonstrate mobility between Wi-Fi and cellular for calls. (The company also announced new software for the Mobility System and new switches, the $9,595 MX-200 for data centers with two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and the $9,995 MX-216 with two Gigabit and sixteen 10/100 ports plus Power over Ethernet.)
“Partners are key to our success,” says Watson. Divitas does plan to do interoperability tests with a number of others as it continues talking to companies, and Symbol says it’s working closely with them make sure F/MC hand-off works with the Symbol MC70 dual-mode phone. Other companies Divitas says it is in active talks with include Cisco, Siemens, Aruba, Foundry, Trapeze, UTStarcom, Samsung, Mitel and Nokia.
The company isn’t in talks with SpectraLink or Vocera, both relatively big names in VoWLAN, especially in vertical markets, mainly because they both lack dual-mode phones — they’re Wi-Fi only.
“We’re looking to mobilize the percentage of employees that’s not yet mobile,” says Khuller. He cites the worth of a company like Research in Motion, which makes billions by unwiring just a small portion of the workforce at the top of the pyramid of phone users. At the bottom, Divitas sees 70 percent of employees tethered to phones on their desk. The plan is to set them free. With 35 million dual-mode phones expected to be in use by 2008 or 2009 (according to ABI Research), Divitas hopes to have a head start.