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Boingo, Broadcom partner to include Boingo software in Wi-Fi VoIP phones: Boingo received another shot of confidence in its method of aggregating access to tens of thousands of hotspots worldwide for a flat fee with Broadcom incorporating the Boingo software toolkit in its Wi-Fi phone chipset platform. Reducing coding effort vastly increases the likelihood that a manufacturer would partner with Boingo to provide access for its subscribers, or that a reseller or service provider would wind up working with Boingo because the phone already had the capability to tap into the Boingo network.
Buzz Me Baby! reviews the Wi-Fi-based Belkin Skype phone: The phone can connect to a Wi-Fi network to log into a Skype account and provide the same set of features available via a PC-based Skype client. The review is generally positive about the hardware, and says that call quality is generally good. Calls made via SkypeOut, from the Skype network to the public switch telephone network, had some latency compared to computer-based SkypeOut calls when you were speaking with cell phone users.
While the review mentions that you can use WEP and WPA to authenticate to a protected Wi-Fi network, it doesn’t note that open networks that require a Web page clickthrough are offlimits; there’s no microbrowser or other control onboard that would allow this. This eliminates quite a few free hotspots that require a click to agree to the terms of service or a splash-page clickthrough, or that require viewing ads to obtain free service.
The phone runs $179 at Amazon.com.
The New York Times weighs in on voice over Wi-Fi in the wild: Matt Richtel files a lighthearted story about using a Wi-Fi phone from Belkin that handles Skype voice calls. He notes that it will be increasingly likely that strangers might use unprotected Wi-Fi networks to make phone calls—which will probably disappoint those piggybackers. While purposely public Wi-Fi networks will be located in places that people will frequent and typically designed to provide strong signal strength throughout an area, a hijacked signal might ebb and flow and not be great for phone calls.
That’s why there’s such interest in UMA (unlicensed mobile access) and similar technologies or approaches that will allow either seamless or manually switched service on both cell and Wi-Fi networks. A weak signal on one leads to usage on the other. T-Mobile, as noted in the article, has an offering available just in my home market of Seattle right now; Richtel says the service is in testing, but it’s actually commercially available for purpose at any T-Mobile corporate-owned store and perhaps their affiliates. I’ve only checked with the corporate stores.
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.
D-Link has introduced its Wireless G Flip-Style Wi-Fi Mobile Phone: If they worked at it, they might slip a few more words in its name. The DPH-540 uses 802.11g (which is a bit rare for a VoIP phone), handles WPA-PSK (also a bit rare right now), and uses standard SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) which works with many VoIP providers—although getting the SIP gateway details is sometimes problematic.
The phone is 3.74 ounces, color backlit LCD display, and all the expected real phone goodness like speed dial and ring tones. The software is from TelTel, which handles buddy lists, TelTel-to-TelTel (T5?) calling (free) and PSTN calling (fee).
The marketing material notes that you can “Call Anywhere in the World Wherever you Have a Wireless Connection” but doesn’t mention that most hotspots use authentication—not WPA Personal. This is a growing issue that will be addressed in Wi-Fi phones meant for real hotspot roaming, rather than this, which is great around the house or at some free hotspots (those that don’t have a gateway page to confirm use on before access).
The phone will be shown at the VON (Voice Over Network) this week (tomorrow through Friday). It will ship this summer via retailers for $250 (list).
The latest version offers better voice quality, more standard Skype features found on computers: Version 2.0 works on more devices through Windows Mobile 5.0 support, and can work on 240-by-240–pixel screens. Several features found in the computer-based version of Skype now work on the handheld release, including voicemail, presence, and SkypeOut, according to the press release.
Their new chipset will allow video on VoIP phones using Wi-Fi for transport: It includes a specialized chip for video processing, its b/g single-chip silicon, and a mobile VoIP processing chip.
At the Consumer Electronics Show, NetGear demonstrated its Wi-Fi phone to make Skype calls: The phone apparently has no special authentication, so will only work at locations that require only a simple encryption key or offer free service. Although Boingo and other hotspot chains have deals with Skype for cheaper VoIP-only access, none of the NetGear coverage mentions this arrangement.
Vonage is now shipping the UTStarcom F1000 configured for its service: This phone works over Wi-Fi networks that use no encryption or employ WEP or WPA-PSK (WPA-Personal) security. There’s no support for 802.1X authentication. The UTStarcom phone is a generic SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) device for VoIP, but the Vonage-branded version is preconfigured to work through the Vonage network.
The handset is $130 with a $50 rebate. The company claims 50 to 100 hours of standby time, five hours of talk time, and a two-to-three–hour recharge period. It requires a Vonage subscription, but there’s no additional charge to use the phone.
Aruba will interoperate with SpectraLink, Vocera, Avaya; adds new packet-based VoWLAN spec: Two big announcements on voice from the company that Microsoft picked to replace aging Wi-Fi equipment across their Redmond campuses and worldwide. Aruba says they are certified by SpectraLink, a veteran enterprise VoIP and VoWLAN firm; validated by Vocera, the Wi-Fi badge/intercom maker beloved by nurses and supply-chain logistics managers; and is part of the Avaya developer program.
Simultaneously, they’ve announced Voice Flow Classification (VFC), which is a packet-inspection and prioritization protocol which allows handsets, firewalls, and access points to be coordinated to avoid speech clipping on calls and overloading calls on individual APs. The technology provides prioritization at the firewall level, and monitors off-hook calls throughout a switched WLAN environment to push calls to APs that have capacity. It suppresses handset scanning when that would interfere with a call, too.
There’s an interesting small option noted in this protocol, too, which is that devices that hop on a network to access voice functions can’t pass regular data. This is intended to prevent security holes for enterprises using handsets that don’t have robust authentication.
VFC is part of their 2.5 platform update, which is free to existing users and available this month.
Broadcom’s BCM1161 processor integrates array of common features: The single-chip VoWLAN processor includes USB, an LCD, and analog codecs for microphone and speaker connections. It supports a 2 megapixel digital camera, recording audio, the playback of audio and video clips, and 3-way and speaker phone calls. It doesn’t include Wi-Fi on board, which is hard to figure from the coverage and press release. Broadcom offers Wi-Fi in a single chip to complement this VoIP offering.
Broadcom is also offering a reference design for integrating their product with a Wi-Fi chipset into a fully functioning handset.
Wayport will offer Vocera’s VoIP badge systems to hotels, other service-partner venues: This is a nice win for Vocera, which has had rave reviews of their technology since its introduction. The Vocera badge uses Wi-Fi for VoIP but is hands-free. Tap the badge, speak a name or request, and voice-recognition technology tied into Vocera’s hardware and a local PBX can find people or complete calls.
Wayport has more than a thousand venues appropriate for Vocera technology, and this gives Wayport one more arrow in their quiver on the private network side. Wayport does offer private networking services, but more typically provides a range of services on the private side along with public Internet access, provisioning, account management, integration, and billing.