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Small cells to take on PBX role

This year, as at the last two, small cell and Wifi developments are going to be the big infrastructure noise at Mobile World Congress, kicking off later this month. But this time around, rather than just the well-worn small cell story, we'll be expecting to hear a lot more of the "this is what you can do with them if you apply some intelligence and imagination". Just as a taster, then, here's Ubiquisys' and Quortus' pitch for using small cells to construct the equivalent of a mobile PBX.

Just to start with it's probably time we got rid of that acronym: I'm sure Noah took two of them in the Ark but, without massive technical support, never got them to work. Just in case you don't know (and why should you?) it stands for Private Branch eXchange. When things got fancy and more digital we also had Private Automatic Branch eXchanges (PABXs). They were, and probably still are, horrendously expensive company switchboards and needed to spend years being soak tested before being released.

With the advent of mobile telephony there have been various attempts at melding the switchboard and the mobile - usually as a kind of 'centrex' mobile solution where groups of company mobiles could be formed into virtual private exchanges (where all were on a special tariff and could communicate using short codes, have hunt groups and that sort of thing).

They always seemed sensible, but never really took off. Instead, smaller, cheaper versions of the PBX continue to be bought and installed to this day to handle calls in the usual way, though often with IP desk phones at the receiving end.

Perhaps the femtocell presents an opportunity to have a proper go and banish the PBX forever? Or at least provide an alternative

Ubiquisys and Quortus are going to demonstrate a small-cell-based mobile PBX. It will use Ubiquisys' enterprise smart cell loaded with Quortus' EdgeCentrix software to create, the companies claim, an all-mobile PBX for businesses, eliminating the need for desk phones as well as giving operators a compelling offering for the underserved small and medium business (SMB) segment.

When making calls, a user always dials the same number from their contact list, and if the target user is also within the coverage area of the office smart cell, the call is routed locally on the cell without touching the macro network. If the target user is outside the smart cell's range then the call goes to the macro network as usual. Simples.

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