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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.
The mobile operating system Symbian, used in phones and other handhelds, will offer native Wi-Fi support: Version 9.3 will sport as part of an update support for Wi-Fi. This should make it easier to use VoIP over Wi-Fi without a developer or manufacturer having to integrate a separate network stack. Phones featuring this version of Symbian would probably appear at the beginning of 2007, according to this ZDNet article.
Several efforts are underway to insert Wi-Fi at the OS level into more operating systems, including Devicescape’s release of a no-fee open-source license for its Linux-based security and device driver stack.
Techworld takes a look at a phone that can use the cheaper network: The CiceroPhone turns a Pocket PC device into a telephone, and it can route calls over a Wi-Fi network when it’s available, choosing cellular when not. The intent isn’t for hotspot use, but rather in making a single device roam across a user’s common working networks, such as home, remote offices, and possibly intra-office. Cicero claims its phone is first to dial out over both networks and to switch between them dynamically.
Peter Judge, author of the above article, also separately reviews the CiceroPhone, and finds it quite good and flexible, although voice quality needs improvement. The fact that any SIM can be inserted and you can configure which calls by phone number are routed over which network is a good glimpse of what the future could be like on a dedicated handset—if carriers and handset makers allow it.
The mesh networking company adds voice over WLAN: Telesym shuttered its doors a few weeks ago with plans to spin out as much technology as possible to repay investors. This is the first public deal in which software will be licensed to a third party. Sensoria says they alerady offer voice, video, and data, but that the SymPhone software extends their peer-to-peer voice support.
SCN has created software for certain Nokia phones that will initially enable voice over Bluetooth: Support for Wi-Fi is planned for the future. The software can be loaded onto the phones, which are based on the Symbian operating system, by end users or in advance by operators. The concept is similar to softphones that enable voice over IP calling and are available for download onto PCs.
SCN says that operators and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) are testing the application. This type of capability may be most attractive to MVNOs. Operators will likely resist offering an open voice over Wi-Fi service as long as they can, in fear of having to hand off their customers to networks owned by other companies. But an MVNO might be interested in a combined Wi-Fi/cellular offering as a differentiator.
Such downloadable software may be what Ireland’s TalkTelecom has in mind. The company has said that it has trialed a voice over Wi-Fi service, offered to customers who have downloaded software to their phones. The handsets will have to have an operating system like Symbian to enable the download of such an application.