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Hello launches converged Wi-Fi, cell voice services with single phone model: Users of Norway’s Hello network must use a Qtek phone to get the benefits of Wi-Fi/cell roaming for voice. The Windows Mobile-based telephone handles seamless switchovers between the cell network and VoWLAN-based telephony. Hello is an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), reselling airtime from two Norwegian operators; it debuted in April.
Charges for the converged, de facto unlicensed mobile access (UMA) plans include one in which minutes are charged on top of a set monthly fee, with a different per-minute charges based on whether the cell or Wi-Fi network is used. (The story says Hello isn’t using UMA, which is a standard, but from the end user perspective, it walks and talks like UMA.)
The UK telecom firm will offer Enterprise Fixed Mobile Convergence: It’s a fancy name that means dual-mode phones (GSM, GPRS, or 3G + Wi-Fi) will be able to make calls at a subscriber’s office or at BT Wi-Fi hotspots. The calls will be free within the office and at a much lower tariff elsewhere. Vodafone’s network will provide cell service, and Alcatel will provide the equipment.
BT won’t provide guidance on the service, which they expect to launch early next year, but a similar servic in France runs €9.99 for activation and €29.99 per month for broadband Internet, TV, and VoIP, or about $40 per month.
Matthew Gast has posted audio files showing the quality of VoWLAN in testing at Interop: Gast, who works for enterprise switch maker Trapeze Networks, is part of the Interop Labs testing crew, which this year put together systems to test handsets and Quality of Service (QoS) using the 802.11e Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) prioritization scheme. WMM should allow voice packets to move unimpeded in the queue ahead of other data, thus making a VoWLAN call sound like a POTS (plain old telephone service) call.
Gast’s first audio recording explains the parameters of their testing and notes a lot of the particulars that make VoWLAN so difficult to implement correctly. Two following audio files show a call without WMM and with WMM. The difference is very noticeable. Gast made the calls in the challenging RF environment of Interop in which he could stop 40 to 70 APs from the booth in which he was working.
In months past, Gast has estimated the practical number of VoWLAN calls possible in 802.11b, g, and a networks. I’ll be looking forward to his analysis of 802.11n, which has vastly higher throughput and range; it can also preserve higher speeds at greater distances. One of the stumbling blocks in moving 802.11n through the IEEE process was a concern about certain elements that might make 802.11n’s use in handsets impractical. Those concerns have apparently been addressed.