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Cisco’s Linksys division rebrands, extends its cordless and IP phones: Cisco had the iPhone trademark, so the likelihood of Apple offering an iPhone—which was an unlikely name for Apple in the first place—were dim. Linksys already had a few models of VoIP phones that work wirelessly as cordless phones connecting to adapters plugged into computers, or pure IP phones using Wi-Fi for network access. They rebranded their existing phones while adding two more models.
Relevant for VoWLAN News is the WIP320, an 802.11g Skype phone that has an estimated street price of $200 when it ships in the first quarter of 2007. Linksys already offers the WIP300 (minimally featured IP phone, $220) and the WIP330 (micro-browser-enabled IP phone with hotspot login rules available, $370).
I review T-Mobile HotSpot@Home in today’s New York Times: Read my further analysis over at Wi-Fi Networking News.
Another shot across the bow of landlines: Smartphones can be a little smarter with Skype 2.2 for Windows Mobile. The application works on 120 Windows Mobile devices and offers the same features as the Skype desktop client, along with extras like secure connection support for proxies. Skype says they’ve had 5m downloads of the various betas. The service requires a smartphone with a Wi-Fi connection. A Symbian release is still expected this year. Symbian powers 70 percent of smartphones worldwide, but only a tiny fraction of US smartphones.
Sensible opinion: A Broadcom exec in Europe says that Wi-Fi phones have their place, but dual-mode Wi-Fi/cell phones are more likely to be useful. With these hybrid phones just starting to hit the market, he notes “it will be interesting to see how users react to them.”
Truphone releases free software that allows Wi-Fi-equipped Nokia phones to make cheap calls over The Cloud hotspots: It’s a lot of pieces to put together, but this is part of the overall authentication puzzle—how does a phone log into a network? Truphone has connected the phone (Nokia models E60, E61, and E70), the medium (Wi-Fi), and the network (The Cloud) to offer offer calling at about a 3 pence per minute surcharge over their cellular rates. During a promotion that lasts until Mar. 31, 2007, the base charge for their cell calls to most of the industrialized world’s landlines is £0.00; U.S. cell phones are included in that deal.
The Cloud has 7,500 hotspots in the UK, and is building several city center hotzones.
The faltering VoIP provider suggests 2007 is the year: With Wi-Fi phones and converged cell/Wi-Fi appearing all around them, Vonage finally gets ready to release phones that will work with its calling service. There were no details about the offering beyond the fact that Vonage expects larger networks being built will offer more possibilities for use. The companies stock has dropped 60 percent since its launch.
Disclaimer: I was a Vonage customer at two different points, mostly recent having the service for several months ending in early 2005. I had a $30 balance that I owed them, and they were unable to charge my credit card as the number was stolen. Despite providing them with additional payment information, they never charged me. A few weeks ago, a collection agency mails me demanding (politely) payment. I expect this may violate two separate state and/or federal laws. First, collections for certain services are allowed only within a year. Second, sending an item into collection without making reasonable effort is typically not allowed, and must be documented. Of course, I owed the money, and I paid it. But immediately following my payment, I have been barraged with email and snail mail asking me as a former loyal customer to return! Bah.
Interesting piece about how T-Mobile, without cable and landlines, uses UMA for challenge: The converged unlicensed mobile access (UMA) roll-out in Seattle by T-Mobile is a foray in their attempt to build their market in the U.S. The company recently acquired billions of dollars worth of 3G spectrum, which they’ll spend billions to install. They have no wired landlines in the U.S.—as opposed to Cingular’s parent firms, Verizon, and until recently Sprint—and they aren’t associated with cable operators, which is Sprint’s major alignment at this point.
The UMA service offers ostensibly seamless roaming between cell and Wi-Fi networks, but even more importantly, reduces the cost to both the operator and the customer in delivering voice on the Wi-Fi side. T-Mobile’s HotSpot@Home plan requires at least a $40/month voice subscription, but costs just $20 per month for unlimited U.S. calls over the Wi-Fi side of the network. That’s comparable to most VoIP packages—although most VoIP lines include unlimited landline calls to Canada, Europe, and Australia, too. Each additional line in a family plan costs just $5 more per month for unlimited calling, make the overall package even cheaper for a larger family.
The article notes that the Wi-Fi calling won’t conform to federal E911 regulations, and when testing the service, I had to sign and agree to disclaimers regarding E911 service.