Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Nokia Turns up the Heat

Today Nokia announced a second UMA-enabled handset to meet demand initially for the Orange unik service roll-outs. The 6086 has a suggested price of just €200 (why do people continue to say these things are expensive?) before any operator subsidies.

Additionally Nokia says the phone has a talk time of (ready for this?) 5 hours on GSM, and 6 hours on WiFi. (http://europe.nokia.com/A4254246)

They qualify it as “pure” GSM or WiFi, meaning without handing the phone between networks. Again, why do people say power management is an issue?

The "problem" with power management comes from the fact that the most of the dual mode devices people can try (HTC, HP, E61) don’t have UMA. Why is that important? Because with UMA, when the phone is on Wi-Fi, the GSM radio goes to sleep, and vice versa, thus leaving a single radio on and conserving power.

But with a non-UMA phone, when the phone is in Wi-Fi, the only way to get a call on the mobile number is to have both the GSM radio on AND the Wi-Fi radio on. As they say in the battery business: not cool.

This latest addition joins the rumored N95 device which is coming soon. Nokia is coming on strong to take a lead in UMA-enabled handsets. Excellent.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Blackberry goes UMA

The rumors are on the websites now, so we might as well post it here as well. Blackberry's new Crimson model is a more consumer friendly unit with a UMA-enabled Wi-Fi. The device has been rumored for a while, and it looks like the plans are firming up. Look for it spring 2007...

UMA Wins!

Last night the Financial Times held a gala dinner in London to hand out the World Communications Awards recognizing leadership and excellences in the telecom market.

UMA was entered in the Technology Innovation category. Up against strong competitors like RIM, Icera and QUALCOMM, UMA prevailed and took top honors.

The market is starting to realize that UMA is for real. All indications are the UMA will be huge in 2007, surpassing expectations. Get ready.

Monday, November 20, 2006

3's bold move

Last week, mobile provider 3 launched a flat rate data plan. Similar to fixed line broadband services today (ie, my DSL line), 3 is offering subscribers unlimited data packet services over its high speed 3G data network, escentially becoming a mobile ISP (yet with real assets like spectrum).

Like it or 3G client for companies developing 3G handsets.

I think we’ll see 3G handsets available in the middle of next year, just about the time 3 realizes that to make the service really work, it needs to lean on the fixed network (and Wi-Fi) to lighten the load.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Feedback on T-Mobile's service

Here is a link to a National Public Radio (NPR) show recorded in Seattle on KUOW.


Host John Moe interviews Glenn Fleishman, national technology columnist, editor of Wi-Fi Networking News, and a resident of the Seattle area.

Glenn has signed up for T-Mobile’s HotSpot @Home service and here he comments on his experiences with the service as well as the potential impact in the market.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Not unik any more...

Currently on France Telecom's main home page, front and center, the lead service/advertising message is unik:

As a service, unik is not something hidden on a back page, buried in other calling packages. It's clear that Orange/FT is making a major marketing and sales push around unik and UMA.

FT, one of the 10 largest service providers in the world, has put its weight behind the technology, and frankly the supply chain is listening. There has been a dramatic increase in activity in the handset/device ecosystem around UMA. New platforms and handset manufacturers are jumping in to meet the demand being created by Orange markeking this service to its more than 60m mobile subscribers. Are you ready?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A new UMA phone from Nokia?

We love rumor here at UMAToday.com, and we're always on the look-out for news about new models of UMA devices.

One alert reader pointed us to the Esato blog/message board where a discussion was underway around which model Nokia to buy, the P990i or the new N95. As you can see, the N95 is a dual mode device which is touted as having UMA (as well as a 5 meg pixel camera, ideal for WiFi uploads!)

The poster from Toronto mentions the N95 is a Jan 07 device. We here at UMAToday.com can't wait to see it.

VCC from the inside

From the UMA perspective, VCC or Voice Call Continuity, is an emerging specification designed for a fixed line operator to hold on to a mobile call when the phone is operating over Wi-Fi/IP in the home, then transfer the call to the mobile operator when the subscriber leaves the home.

VCC is also touted at the “alternative” to UMA. VCC proponents are quick to point out that the specification will be finalized “shortly” and devices are “coming soon”. Of course UMA is shipping and deployed today and is already the de-facto standard to which any VCC service must measure up.

However, I wanted to take a moment to comment on a piece that came out in Oct 2006 around the IMS World Forum in San Diego.

The piece was released by the IMS Forum, a recognized industry organization leading the charge to drive standards and lead interoperability testing, and gives a view of the challanges of developing the new specification.

Read it here.

I think the piece is interesting because it’s one of the first honest assessments of the state of VCC from the “inside”. It was developed by an organization ostensible focused on helping VCC come to market.

IMS Forum chairman Michael Khalilian comments: “It is well recognized that the handover is a technical challenge for convergence solutions of two drastically different networks, i.e. Wi-Fi SIP and cellular.”

Finally we get an inkling of the enormous task VCC is out to solve, bridging call control between two completely independent and technically different (packet/SIP vs circuit/GSM).

The article “warns of significant hurdles [that] must first be addressed before the opportunity [of VCC] can be realized.”

Tops on the list:
- Supplementary Services. This means everything your phone can do beyond making a call. It includes SMS, MMS, ringtones, games downloads, as well as telephony services like conference calling and 3 way calling. Yes, none of that is supported in VCC today or tomorrow. It all needs to be defined.

Beyond supplemental service support, the article lists:
- the reliance on CAMEL for handover
- dealing with multimedia session mobility
- setting realistic timeframes for rollouts.

There is some real work to be done to get VCC to the same level as UMA.

And this is just a drop in the bucket. On his blog, industry pundit Dean Bubley wrote about the next hurdle facing the IMS world, asking what exactly is an “IMS handset”? It’s not defined and an industry standard is a very long ways off.

It's easy to believe the hype that VCC will be able to magically maintain service transparency and service quality balancing between two completely different and independent networks. Oh and it will all be buttoned up and deployed in less than a year. A realistic VCC service is much farther off than anyone can predict.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Recently Mark Newman, the chief research officer at Informa, wrote a piece titled “Price bundles and ‘cheap’ mobile steal FMC’s thunder”. This got me thinking, is UMA a technology for “FMC” or “FMS”?

As with all these things, it depends on your definition. And often the definition depends on your perspective (fixed operator, wireless operator, MVNO, alternative provider).

Fixed-Mobile Converge (FMC), literally defined, means converging the services, devices and networks into a single, common application architecture. FMC means getting (and delivering) the same services over the fixed network as over the mobile network. This is more the vision of integrated operators with both fixed and mobile assets (Telecom Italia, Orange/FR, Deutsche Telecom). Quite frankly, this is the vision of IMS.

Fixed-to-mobile substitution (FMS) is much more of a service strategy/vision. The idea is to provide sufficient incentives to subscribers to stop using their fixed line phones and to begin using their mobile phones (thus “substituting” usage from fixed to mobile). FMS is being pursued in earnest by stand-alone mobile operators like T-Mobile US, Orange/UK, and O2/DE.

So where does UMA fit?

Operators deploying UMA are offering “flat rate” calling packages when in the home or office. These flat rate plans are designed to give subscribers the incentive to use their mobile phones for all calling services. Since UMA is targeting the home and office, where most fixed line calling happens, it’s fair to say that UMA is a technology approach for FMS.

But for operators like Telecom Italia/TIM, Telia Sonera, and Orange/France Telecom, UMA is being used as the technology for delivering mobile services over the fixed (broadband) network. In these cases, UMA is first technology to cross the FMC bridge, and because UMA can be used to deliver IMS services/applications, it can be viewed as the first viable FMC technology.

The reality is that UMA is used for both FMC and FMS services depending on the operator and their business/market requirements.

For FMS, there are competing approaches, the cellular “homezone” being a popular one. Comparing UMA to homezones offers several pros and cons based on market and business issues in the region.

For FMC, there is talk about the future VCC specification being able to bridge the fixed and mobile networks together. UMA can deliver mobile services of the fixed (broadband) network today and offers several other advantages.

One thing is clear, UMA is for mobile operators (integrated or stand-alone). How they use it (for FMC or FMS) depends on market and business requirements.

Friday, November 10, 2006

When the "homezone" is free

I was talking with a colleague about mobile-only “homezone” services. These services, quite popular in Germany, give subscribers deep discounts (ie “free”) for calls made within a cellular “zone”, typically around the home. The zone can be as simple as the cell tower nearest the subscriber’s home, or based on 3G “triangulation” techniques to draw a virtual circle around the subscriber’s home.

For calls made within that zone (or circle), two things happen: First, the subscriber gets a deep discount because they are in the zone, and two the mobile operator uses the same network infrastructure to carry calls. The result for the operator is that calls within the home zone are under significant profit pressure.

Apparently one product manager at an operator offering such a service has first hand knowledge of the price pressure. The story is that his wife lives and works within the zone. Because all the mobile calls made within the zone are free, the man’s wife pays nothing for the vast majority of her mobile usage.

The point is home zones and quite often office zones are free or will be free very soon. This is because in the home or office, there is real competition from both fixed line phones as well as new VoIP service providers.

Faced with this incredible competitive pressure, mobile operators are forced to develop artificial zones with artificial pricing to match these disruptive service providers.

While cellular based home zones will “solve” the problem in the short term, the reality is that operators cannot pay real network transport costs when the revenue collected is zero. Pricing below cost is a recipe for disaster.

This is the beauty of UMA. With UMA, operators can offer free services because they are using the same “free” Wi-Fi/IP network infrastructure the upstart VoIP providers are using. Second, UMA provides a zone that’s exactly the same size as the zone a VoIP provider has, namely the range of a Wi-Fi access point. With UMA, operators get a very targeted home zone, not one that covers an entire town or village.

There is no doubt that homezones are viewed as a “quick fix” to the pricing pressures faced by operators today. And it's clear what consumers want: Cheap Voice.

In the end, voice is a commodity, and the way to win is to be on the lowest cost access network. That’s what UMA does for mobile operators.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Hybrid Strategy

McKinsey has an excellent, free (with registration) series on the mobile telecoms market.

This week’s installment featured interviews with both T-Mobile Croatia’s CMO as well as Jon Erik Haug, the head of consumer mobile business for Telenor in Norway.

An excerpt from the interview:

McKinsey: Should mobile operators launch flat-rate schemes to head-off the VoIP threat?

JON ERIK HAUG: Ideally, operators should try to avoid flat rates as long as fixed-to-mobile convergence continues. Operators should, however, be ready to launch hybrid plans, that is to say, price plans with flat-rate elements, in areas where the treat from alternative technology is imminent – such as, for example, the home.

We at UMAToday couldn’t agree more. What strikes a cord is Mr. Haug’s approach to provide differentiated service plans which best match the competitive environment.

The threat from wireless VoIP providers is highest in places where WiFi exists, specifically in the home and office. Rather than re-structuring the entire mobile pricing plan to counter a flat-rate competitor, develop a hybrid strategy. Limit flat rate pricing to Wi-Fi zones (home/ office), and retain the valuable per-minute pricing of the general mobile network.

UMA is the ideal technology for operators to precisely target locations with the highest competitive threats, and then use the same technology (Wi-Fi) to achieve similar cost structures and beat the competition. And this all occurs without having to de-value existing mobile plans.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Does it measure up?

I was on a call the other day with a very large service provider involved in UMA. Unpromted, the technical manager on the call said: "UMA is now the bar by which we measure any other FMC technology." Excellent!

While this should be the case, it was very comforting to to hear. UMA is one of the few technologies available today. There are vendor proprietary solutions and "pre-VCC" solutions, but UMA is the first standardized approach. And frankly, I think UMA has set the comparitive bar very high.

The user experience for UMA is exactly the same on Wi-Fi as on GSM, it supports full mobility of packet services (for SIP and IMS), it fits into the existing mobile network OSS/BSS and it is quite straight-forward to deploy

Because the specification is still being finalized, it's hard to tell what a VCC product will really do. But from what I've seen so far, UMA doens't have much to worry about.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

UMA Keeps Delivering

Patrick Donegan from Heavy Reading has a new research report out on dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi services titled "WirelessVOIP & the Future of Carrier Voice Services".

In an Unstrung article, Patrick makes the point that while the market is just getting started, there’s “still something left out of the total value proposition” for dual mode services.

But after reading the article, I can’t help thinking he really meant that there’s “still something left out of the total value proposition ...for non-UMA based services.”

Take a read, see if you agree. But for the “issues” listed, it seemed like UMA-based solutions were covered. The point being made was that it was really the non-UMA based solutions which were missing something. I couldn't agree more.

That darn UMA, it keeps delivering what operators and subscribers want.