So far carriers were able to keep a tight grip on the connection options for their users. Want to make a call? Pay us. Want to download e-mail? That’s $1 per megabyte. Want to connect to the Internet? Buy our data plan. Lots of surfing? Abroad? You are welcome. For $3500 a month! Want to use service that we don’t approve? Sorry, you can’t. Want to download music from the net? Sorry, not through our network. But that may be changing soon.
Last week Nokia announced itâ€™s first cell phone to feature â€œcarrier friendlyâ€? UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) spec, which allows for â€œseamless transition between GSM and Wi-Fi networks without dropping the call.â€? Nokia is spinning it’s 6136 clamshell as the mobile operators’ answer to the threat of VoIP. It should help them maximize their investment into xDSL. It will increase quality of coverage. It will decrease infrastructure costs.
Motorola also launched their A910 Wi-Fi/UMA handset. Other manufacturers are not far behind. So it seems that this onslaught of UMA enabled cell phones should kill emerging VoIP industry pretty soon. And surely, the articles of imminent death of Skype, Vonage and entire VoIP field already started springing all around the net. The reasoning goes like this:
With UMA enabled phones wireless carriers will be able to offer special plans for calls via Wi-Fi networks. “In three years,” says Ken Kolderup of Kineto Wireless, which shepherded the technology through the standards process, “mobile minutes at home will be free“.(Register). With the option of cheap or free wireless calls over Wi-Fi networks, there will be no way for VoIP guys to compete with carriers. The only way to bypass incumbents is to build the new network. And that is practically impossible.
Well, being completely dependent on wireless carriers, cell phone manufacturers can not spin this technology any other way. Incumbents are their only distribution channel. But Nokia, Motorola and others may have something completely different in mind…Continue on next page
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