A convergence of fixed and mobile services may help carrier fill the gap between high-speed broadband and mobility PCCW, the Hong Kong fixed-line incumbent which also runs wireless broadband services in Britain, is looking at an operating model that will combine fixed wireless access and mobile services in the two markets. With the aim of offering ubiquitous broadband to customers, the model - called fixed mobile convergence (FMC) - may become the solution that will stem lost revenues to mobile operators and declines in its Hong Kong fixed-line business. Dr Wu Liang-tai, PCCW's executive vice-president of emerging technology, said over the next 10 years all telecommunications devices would have a wireless option. Thus, he said the big question facing the sector was how to fill in the gap between high-speed broadband and mobility. '[Third generation] by itself is not enough [to satisfy the need for ubiquitous broadband], because, after all, it is a voice-oriented device and there is not enough frequency to be 'wasted' for broadband data,' said Dr Wu, who has worked with PCCW chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai since 1999. Dr Wu said his team was looking at various technology choices for the much-talked about WiMAX, a more advanced version of the current Wi-fi hotspots based on the 802.16 technology. PCCW announced in November last year that it was working with Intel to explore WiMAX-based broadband technologies. FMC is a combination of fixed wireless access solutions, be it WiMAX or the universal mobile telecom service time-division duplex (UMTS TDD) being deployed by PCCW's British wireless broadband business known as UK Broadband, and converge it with 3G mobile services. Because WiMAX and UMTS TDD can offer true broadband speed of up to 14 megabits per second if converged with 3G, as opposed to wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) which offers only 384 kilobits per second, users can talk or view multimedia content seamlessly from the two networks - all on a single portable phone and one number. In Britain, fixed-line giant British Telecom(BT) is acting quickly to ensure that it will not lose out in the race to converge fixed and mobile services. BT is working with mobile handset vendors to make Wi-fi-enabled mobile phones to capture revenue from such voice over internet protocol (VoIP) over Wi-fi. At the same time, it has partnered with Vodafone to become its mobile virtual network operator to sell its own branded mobile service on Vodafone's network. In Hong Kong, PCCW is testing a portable phone that can perform VoIP over Wi-fi. Dr Wu said a 3G/Wi-fi handset was already marketed by NTT DoCoMo for its 3G service. PCCW has more than 200 Wi-fi hotspots in Hong Kong. UK Broadband is planning to use VoIP over its wireless broadband network to break into the country's voice market next year. PCCW got all 15 licences at a cost of US$14 million to offer wireless broadband services on the 3.4 gigahertz spectrum in the country. Jon Hambidge, head of global marketing of IPWireless, the California-based technology company which licensed its proprietary UMTS TDD to UK Broadband, said the system was basically a 3G mobile broadband technology that would give a full UMTS solution. With speeds that can exceed 10Mbps, it gives better performance than high-speed downlink packet access, which only gives its theoretical 14 Mbps at the centre of a cell. Portuguese mobile operator Optimus will launch a combined WCDMA/TDD solution, while Singapore's mobile operator M1 is conducting technology trials. For now, UK Broadband is restricted by its licence to offer mobile services with the technology. According to IPWireless, PCCW is required to 'switch off' turnover between cell sites. But a source close to Britain's telecommunications and broadcasting regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), said this may change soon. In a forthcoming consultation on the implementation plan for spectrum framework review, Ofcom will issue proposals on spectrum liberalisation to mobile telephony service and fixed wireless broadband. As such, the source said whether UK Broadband would be allowed to extend its service to include mobile telephony was subject to Ofcom's deliberations. But if extending the service scope on the 3.4GHz spectrum is not allowed after the consultation, Dr Wu said there were many ways to achieve FMC. 'Seamless roaming [between its wireless broadband and mobile networks] is just a matter of reaching agreement with the mobile carriers which have the mobile licence.'