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BusinessWeek reports on T-Mobile’s testing of unlicensed mobile access (UMA): UMA converges cellular networks and Wi-Fi networks with a dual-mode phone acting as the conduit. The best network is used for calls by whatever standard the operator allows or requires and the consumers chooses, if they have a choice. The might mean the cheapest network (Wi-Fi over cell), the best quality (outdoors, probably cell over Wi-Fi, indoors the opposite), or a combination of factors based on a plan.
UMA isn’t rolled out yet, but T-Mobile solicited testers to try phones and Wi-Fi gear for “T-Mobile-At-Home.” According to recent research I conducted, it’s clear that Wi-Fi routers in their present form aren’t ideal for UMA. Instead, a few new standards need to be added to better allow reduced power by UMA handsets and control quality of service. The latter, known as WME and part of the 802.11e standard, is becoming widely available, but the power-control standard for handsets is only in specialized gateways at present.
AT&T is also planning to introduce similar services, whether strictly UMA (a standard) or just a similar converged idea is unclear; it sounds more like a phone with a switch than automated seamless roaming. AT&T is in the middle of acquiring BellSouth, which would also give AT&T 100-percent control of Cingular Wireless, and allow more flexibility in their Wi-Fi and cellular plans for AT&T home customers.
The article also notes BT’s existing similar service (which uses Bluetooth, but will switch to Wi-Fi soon), and Hawaii Telecom’s hybrid wireline/cellular service. Hawaii Telecom uses automatic call forwarding based on location.
Verizon has a slight problem with this service, because they might migrate home landline users to Verizon Wireless, which is minority owned by Vodafone. This would send money out the door to this partner that they would otherwise retain in a landline market. Of course, Verizon could also see a DSL uptake, which the article doesn’t mention, and capture revenue in other markets where they have no landline business. Verizon told the reporter they have no converged calling plans on the table.
Posted by Glennf at August 15, 2006 2:51 PM
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