Nokia 6136, Motorola A910 and other UMA phones. What OEM’s aren’t telling anyone

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 it’s first cell phone to feature “carrier friendlyâ€? UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) spec, which allows for “seamless 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


Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • Mark

    Sure free VoIP is nice and I use it a lot to talk to friends all over the world. But to use them as a real telephone replacement? Sorry, too cumbersome. What if I’m not at my computer when a phone call comes in? What if my PC is turned off? What if I left my headphone jack in PC and all the calls are muted? What if my Internet line is down?

    You make it sound like VoIP is ONLY a computer based solution. Sunrocket, Vonage, etc. are not computer based VoIP solutions, and you completely disregard this fact. My VoIP will forward to my cell phone in the event of a power failure, internet congestion, etc. Additionally, your perfect model of the phone world consolidates all phone communication into a single handset, and therefore a single phone number. Sorry, but I don’t want EVERYONE in the world having the number to my mobile. Let them talk to my answering machine if they want to sell me something.

  • stace

    I am not sure that we disagree here on something. My point was that VoIP at least seems too unreliable, PC based or not. Especially here in Europe, where there isn’t as many VoIP options.

    UMA takes nothing away from current VoIP providers. It only gives them and us additional options.

    With UMA I can have the cheapest plan from my wireless provider for backup and call forwarding and use VoIP for all other needs.

    Yes my model conslidates everything into a single handset. But why is it a bad thing?

    I can have Vonage, Sunrocket, Skype and Gtalk on my mobile phone at the same time. And I don’t have to give people my mobile phone number. I can give some of them my Vonage number, others can have my Gtalk or Skype ID and talk to the answering machine. All the calls can be forwarded to me when I choose so.

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