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The unlicensed mobile access (UMA) service launches Oct. 5: The unik service has standard cell performance, but includes unlimited fixed-line calls (metropolitan France) and calls to Orange mobile numbers when near a Livebox, a Wi-Fi gateway that can be located at home or work (or both). Calls started while near a Livebox remain fee-free even if you walk away and out onto the cell network. Several phones can be linked to the Livebox, and up to three phones may placed unlimited calls via the Wi-Fi side of the network under a single plan.
unik’s initial release is limited to the first 100,000 customers requesting service. There are two plans for domestic French calling, one covering unlimited fixed-line calls (€10/month); the other adding unlimited calls to Orange mobile lines (€22/month). unik works with the Nokia 6136, the Samsung P200, and Motorola A910. The first two phones will be available in October; the Motorola in November. Handset prices start at €99.
The Wi-Fi Alliance and the CTIA will jointly test converged handsets: The two groups, one representing the Wi-Fi industry and the other the cellular world, will cooperate through lab certification to make sure handsets meet their respective wireless profiles, but also don’t interfere with each other. There will likely be a number of handoff parameters worth testing in these environments, too.
Two firms launch VoIP over Wi-Fi plans: Mobiboo partners with The Cloud to provide mobile calling over 1,000 already-installed UK locations; aql (that’s all lowercase) expands from SMS into bring-your-own Wi-Fi calling. The Cloud is also building city center Wi-Fi hotzones across about 10 cities in the UK, with the City of London—that city’s business district—already launched. (The Cloud includes 7,000 hotspots in its roaming network, but apparently just 1,092 are enabled for Mobiboo at this writing.)
The two Wi-Fi mobile operators will offer UTStarcom’s new F3000 phone, what appears to be a much more cellphone-like Wi-Fi phone. The earlier F1000 had a ridiculous interface with smiley faces and poor responsiveness. It felt like a toy rather than a serious phone meant for mobile professionals and early adopter consumers.
Mobiboo costs $339 with the F3000 and aql $282; this article says the F3000 retails for about $200 separately. Both operators include setup costs and $19 of calling time with those bundles. Calling rates are in line with other plans, which typically means about two U.S. cents per minute for calls from VoIP to landline phones in most developed countries, and both landline and cell in most of North America. VoIP-only calls are free.
These aren’t Wi-Fi phones, but more like traditional cordless models: The phones will use DECT, a long-standing European cordless phone standard, to connect to a base station that can route outbound calls over the Internet via Skype (using SkypeOut or Skype names) or through a landline. The phone can accept incoming Skype and landline calls as well. It will ship in December as model VOIP841; no pricing has been set.
These phones are distinct from Wi-Fi phones, which will likely be more complicated to setup and use; these are cordless phones that simply plug into existing wired connections. Because of the sheer normalcy of these phones, including the integration of landline calling in one handset, they’re more likely to achieve general consumer adoption.