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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.
Voice over IP in the enterprise company winds down: Five short weeks ago, I was over at Telesym’s bustling headquarters east of Seattle having a great conversation recorded partly in this podcast about Telesym’s latest products and the tweaks they had made to their offering to better integrate it into enterprise phone switches.
Now the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the company has laid off most employees with severance packages and hopes to return some capital to investors if it can sell its intellectual property. The CEO says fairly bluntly that their product doesn’t scale, so I’m not sure how encouraging that would be to potential buyers.
The company’s two co-founders were pushed out in previous months, and they’re a little bitter about how the products developed without their shepherding them to completion.
One of their competitors, Vocera, says the company floundered by not having a sharp focus and by—at least initially—targeting voice over PDAs. This disregards the success that phone/PDA combos have had in the marketplace, of course, but the company was too far ahead of that market. They were also too far ahead of convergence phones that would have benefitted from their integration on the enterprise and Wi-Fi side while roaming onto cellular as necessary.
My kiss of death interview record is unfortunately quite good: I interviewed the CEO of Cometa just weeks before they coasted to a halt.
The CEO of RoamAD, the mesh Wi-Fi network provider, is making some bold statements about how voice over Wi-Fi can compete with 3G: While I find voice over Wi-Fi compelling, I think it’s a mistake to suggest that it will seriously compete with the cellular networks. Voice over Wi-Fi could steal some significant business from the cellular operators but it is unlikely to essentially replace the cellular services. Voice over Wi-Fi could work quite well if it’s married with cellular so that customers can use the Wi-Fi network where available but roam onto the cellular networks which already offer significant coverage. Otherwise the Wi-Fi services will be quite geographically limited, at least for the medium term. Historically, we’ve seen a few technologies or companies try to target a local service and none has done particularly well. For example, Leap Wireless has a strategy of offering cellular only on a local basis to customers in certain markets. The company recently reorganized under bankruptcy protection, sold a bunch of licenses, and signed a roaming agreement with Verizon to allow customers to roam.
The Personal Handyphone Systems in Japan are another good example. PHS, which had small coverage areas, declined dramatically with the introduction of cellular technologies. Mobile Media Japan has a good timeline of sorts following the fate of PHS. The technology has recently seen a bit of a renaissance, but as a way to target the very very low end of the mobile phone market. The regions where PHS might be successful are not the same areas people are talking about introducing voice over Wi-Fi on a wide scale.
Mike Masnick takes a swipe at all the hype surrounding various concepts of voice over wireless: While I agree with some of what he says here, he misses one point about the competition. While I agree that at least the initial voice services to be deployed over WiMax aren’t competitive with 3G or other cellular networks, such services aren’t meant to compete with the mobile offerings. The US Wireless voice over WiMax service is meant to compete against the incumbent fixed line operators. Instead of using the local Bell, a business could instead hire US Wireless for all their voice and data needs.
But Masnick is right on about technologies like Flarion and IPWireless. Those companies set out to create IP-based mobile data networks. They’ve added the voice over IP services to make their technologies competitive with the standard cellular technologies. For these technologies to succeed in a significant way, the major cellular operators will have to deploy them using their existing cellular spectrum. In that case, as Masnick says, wireless voice over IP isn’t a threat to the cellular players because the cellular players are the most likely ones to deploy it.