Former Cisco Employees Launch Company to Unite Wireless, Cellular

Fixed-mobile convergence is getting a jumpstart this week as one startup enters the playing field and another unveils a distribution agreement that will help channel partners pull together full solutions.

Two Cisco Systems wireless experts Monday formally launched Agito Networks, bringing with them a new appliance family that aims to tie Wi-Fi and cellular calling together.

Separately, DiVitas Networks, another startup in the FMC space, Monday said it has inked a partnership with Brightpoint, a mobile device distributor, to bundle its MMC solution with dual-mode handsets from Nokia so that channel partners can more easily source the building blocks for their FMC solutions.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Agito, led by co-founders Pejman Roshan, vice president of marketing, and CTO Timothy Olson, both formerly of Cisco's Wireless Networking Business Unit, is bringing its RoamAnywhere Mobility Router to market through the channel.

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Founded in 2006 and backed by $9 million in investments led by Battery Ventures, the company is expected to bring in more than 80 percent of its sales through solution providers, Roshan said.

Keith Mattes, COO of Summit Technologies, a solution provider working with Agito, said customers have need of FMC solutions like Agito's to make them more productive.

"With the lack of a central number, employees move between their desk phones and their cell phones so that they're constantly retrieving messages, constantly playing phone tag," Mattes said. "I think there's a lot of pent up demand, and I think customers are ready to allocate budget to this solution."

RoamAnywhere uses RF-based, location-aware wireless technology to bring cellular calls onto the enterprise WLAN when users are in range of the corporate Wi-Fi network and vice versa. It also integrates with the enterprise IP-PBX to bring enterprise call management features to the mobile handset, Roshan said.

Employees that rely on cell phones for their mobile communication needs often run into coverage problems, particularly once they are back in the building, leading to the "hold on, let me call you back from my landline" scenarios that are so common today, Roshan said. Employers are also paying for cellular minutes during times when the employee is in the office. The use of multiple phone numbers can also make it difficult for colleagues and customers to communicate efficiently with those employees, he said.

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Agito's offering, which includes the RoamAnywhere router and a client for dual-mode handsets, provides seamless handover between VoIP calls on the Wi-Fi network and cellular calls regardless of the carrier, relying on location-based services to know when to make the handoff rather than on signal strength.

Solutions that rely on signal strength might jump calls back and forth repeatedly in-building in areas where the WLAN signal is spotty due to RF irregularities, Roshan said. Agito allows IT administrators to take "RF snapshots" dubbed RoutePoints at ingress and egress locations, such as doors, to tell the router when to transfer the call from one network to the other.

"Once the employee enters the building, they walk through a RoutePoint and that triggers a handover that will establish the call on the Wi-Fi network and silently terminate the cellular call," Roshan said.

Using the same location-based services, customers can set up profiles based on their location, such as one profile for the office and another for home.

Agito plans to begin shipping two models of its RoamAnywhere router for general availability by the end of the year. The 2000 Series for up to 100 users will be priced at $9,995, while the 4000 Series for 1,000 users will be priced at $24,995.

For its part, DiVitas, which ships its own FMC appliance, has signed on Brightpoint as a distribution partner. Brightpoint will be bundling the DiVitas MMC appliance with Nokia E-series dual-mode smartphones.

Sourcing the dual-mode phones that work with its solution has been a challenge the company has set out to solve for its customers and channel partners, said Vivek Khuller, CEO and founder of DiVitas, Mountain View, Calif. Thus far, DiVitas has been supplying the handsets to its solution providers, he said, adding that it will be transitioning partners over to now source them through Brightpoint.

Brightpoint will be offering a DiVitas-Nokia starter pack, with includes one DiVitas Mobile Converged Appliance 1000, a five Mobile Convergence Client licenses loaded on five Nokia E61i dual-mode phones. The starter pack is available for a promotional price of $5,000.