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It’s finally coming—VoIP over Wi-Fi paired with cell using single phone plans: Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung should ship dual-mode Wi-Fi/cell phones supporting seamless UMA (unlicensed mobile access) handoff. Nokia’s announcement last week that it would embed iPass hotspot connection software in some phone models is part of that plan; the iPass software would allow an operator who resold Nokia handsets to choose to offer and enable service at the 50,000 iPass-aggregated hotspots worldwide.
While no U.S. carrier has announced UMA plans, there’s apparently a consensus among analysts that operators will jump on board. AT&T (formerly SBC) seems very likely to me given their soon-to-be 100-percent ownership of Cingular, their network of managed and roaming hotspots, and their push for Wi-Fi in the home to their DSL customers.
One analyst predicts T-Mobile will be first by early 2007. T-Mobile has several thousand hotspots in the U.S. that could leverage their out-of-home UMA plans.
Vonage’s handsets will work in The Cloud’s hotspots: The Cloud has over 7,000 Wi-Fi locations in the UK, at pubs, railway stations, and airports, and they have city center deals that will bring coverage across The City (the financial district of London) and several other metropolitan areas. Service with the handsets costs $14.25 per month (£7.99) for unlimited usage at supported locations.
Matthew Gast reports on pre-Interop festivities in configuring VoWLAN devices: Gast worked with Interop Labs to set up the VoIP over WLAN systems that will be demonstrated and tested at the enormous conference in Las Vegas next week. They spent quite a bit of time pre-flighting to make sure that what they want to work will work before they’re on site at the show.
Gast says that they’re testing VoIP’s interaction with security features this year, along with examining the year-over-year improvement in 802.11 phones.
Boingo’s network backs up Kyocera’s handset: The companies showed a prototype of a handset (running BREW as opposed to Java or Microsoft’s OS) that handles CDMA and Wi-Fi, thus being of utility to the American and South Korean markets, primarily. The handset roams onto Boingo’s aggregated hotspot network.
Update: Boingo noted to me via email that I was missing an important aspect of this market. With a CDMA/Wi-Fi handset that can automatically authenticate to Boingo hotspots, a Verizon Wireless or Sprint Nextel user on the U.S. CDMA market can roam internationally—many countries have much more hotspot density than the U.S.—without getting a GSM phone for a trip or paying ruinous mobile roaming prices, which can be $1 to $3 per minute for U.S. GSM phones taken to Europe, Asia, and elsewhere.
Unlicensed mobile access (UMA) appears to be hot topic at this week’s cell industry trade show: Boingo and Kineto on are that bandwagon, with Boingo bringing its hotspot aggregation and authentication platform to the party and Kineto its UMA system, which has both back-end and handset components. The collaboration will target Windows Mobile-5 devices.