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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.
IP phone-toting Foneros may find it easier to connect to in-network hotspots: The Spotigo client will work first with Symbian phones made by Nokia. The first time a user connects to a Fon hotspot, they’ll need to enter their login information, but they can configure the client for automatic connections thereafter. Fon currently claims over 20,000 activated hotspots worldwide.
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.
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.
Four companies will release Wi-Fi-enabled phones that work with Skype with no extra configuration: However, the four phones from Belkin, Edge-Core, NetGear, and SMC won’t handle WPA Enterprise or hotspot authentication. The Belkin phones is listed on Skype’s Store for preorder at $190, and SMC’s at $300. While the ad copy says it works with free wireless networks, it’s more reasonable to say that it works with public networks that require no acceptance of usage terms and charge no fees. I have seen a trend towards free-with-a-click networks. The phones handles WEP, WPA, and WPA2, but only in the preshared key (PSK) mode for WPA.
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.
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.
Unlike previous dual-mode phones, this model can switch during a call between network types: This form of seamless roaming is the holy grail, as it allows a user to roam within a Wi-Fi signal and switch to the cheaper service; or to avoid a call being interrupted when walk out of Wi-Fi range. This phone is designed for operators who want to offer UMA to their customers. UMA services will offer substantially reduced rates for calls make over unlicensed (generally Wi-Fi) spectrum as the call will be carried over backhaul that the carrier doesn’t have to pay for or has fixed costs to cover.
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.