The Economist writes that “new technology will abolish the difference between fixed and mobile phones.”
The current enthusiasm throughout the telecoms industry for the idea of fixed-mobile convergence, which uses clever technology to provide the best of both worlds: the freedom of mobile and the reliability and low cost of fixed lines. Subscribers use the same handset to make calls via fixed lines at home, and mobile networks when out and about: they have one number and one voicemail box, and receive one bill.
Behind the scenes, this involves some clever tricks. Calls are handled within the home by a small base-station plugged into a fixed-line broadband-internet connection. This base-station communicates with nearby handsets using radio technology that operates in unlicensed spectrum, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi (so you will need a new handset). The base-station pretends, in effect, to be an ordinary mobile-phone base-station. As you enter your house, your phone roams on to it. When you make a call, it is routed over the broadband link, which has enough capacity to handle several calls at once by different members of the household. Calls made in this way are billed as fixed-line calls. If you leave the house while making a call, you roam seamlessly back on to the ordinary mobile network. And when a friend comes to visit, her phone roams on to your base-station, but the charges for any calls made appear on her bill.