In-building mobile coverage is often a problem for both mobile operators’ customers and enterprise employees. With its acquisition of UK-based small mobile cell maker Ubiquisys on April 3rd for about $310M, WLAN leader Cisco is increasingly well positioned to not only solve mobile in-building coverage, but also to integrate mobile calling, Wi-Fi, and voice key systems/PBX via automated location-based services for more seamless, user friendly, and higher fidelity voice communications.
While smartphones can easily transfer to Wi-Fi for data, they can’t yet do so for voice, and enterprise support for BYOD brings an expectation of being able to make and receive mobile calls on smartphones regardless of device or mobile operator. And for the enterprise sales force in particular, missing prospects’ calls can mean lost sales when a competitor answers the phone first. Integration of emerging high definition mobile VoLTE with enterprise VoWi-Fi/PBX could one day make multiple phone numbers, complex follow-me configuration and voice-mail-jail a thing of the past. The time is upon us for a clean sheet approach to voice calling that offloads the need for human action onto the network.
Back to the need for small cells, mobile signals often have difficulty penetrating building walls and signal strength is proportional to the distance to a particular mobile operators’ macro-cell tower. Poor in-building reception in the workplace or in the home is a leading cause for mobile customer churn, and mobile operators hate customer churn. Small cells also offload the mobile airwaves by back-hauling traffic over the Internet, and mobile offload is of great interest to mobile operators, particularly in dense traffic areas.
So while Cisco assembles wireless piece parts for an integrated and holistic wireless solution, it's not clear who will ultimately pay for it. Sure supporting "cord cutting" makes sense, but Cisco has to have a solid business plan behind its recent wireless acquisitions (Meraki, BroadHop, Intucell, etc.) so I’ll work on getting an answer from the Cisco Mobility folks and let you know.