Thursday, December 27, 2007

Samsung's P180

We here at UMA Today work hard to keep up with all the new UMA devices. But they are coming out so fast now that apparently we missed one.

In early December,, a tracking site for devices, ran a sneak peak of the new Samsung P180 mid-tier feature phone. The device is targeted at the European market. We haven't seen it for sale yet, but expect it to be available shortly.

That brings the total count for UMA-enabled handsets to 16 devices.

Home (Zone 2.0) for the holidays

The home is the most competitive location for providing telecommunications services today. Fixed, cable, mobile and VoIP providers all work aggressively to provide a full range of personal communication services (voice, instant messaging, email, social networking) to consumers, with a primary goal of winning additional mind (and wallet)-share from consumers when at home. Many within the industry have termed this fierce competition as the “battle for the building.”

For mobile operators, one of the most successful weapons in the battle for the building is the deployment of Home Zone services. A Home Zone service is based on a mobile operator defining a service area around a subscriber’s home where the operator can aggressively price service.

For example, when a subscriber is within his or her Home Zone (i.e., the subscriber is being served by the cell tower nearest to home), mobile calls are charged at land-line rates. Introduced in a number of Western European countries, these first-generation Home Zone services have proved popular with consumers.

Unfortunately, as these services are based on using the macro radio access network (RAN), they also present a number of significant challenges for mobile operators.

Revenue Leakage: As a subscriber’s “Home Zone” is based on the cell tower(s) that services their home, in many situations a subscriber could be served by the same tower throughout their day, whether at home, work or in transit.

Shrinking Margins: As the Home Zone service uses the macro RAN, an operator’s cost of service delivery remains the same. As a result, operators are directly sacrificing service margins.

Poor Performance: Unfortunately, the home is often ill-served from the macro RAN, as it is plagued by poor indoor coverage, particularly with high-speed 3G technologies.

To address these cost and performance challenges, mobile operators are beginning to launch the next generation of Home Zone services, known as “Home Zone 2.0” (HZ2.0). HZ2.0 services are defined by two primary characteristics.

First, they use a low-power femtocell or Wi-Fi access point deployed within a subscriber’s home to address revenue leakage and poor performance. The low-power access points overcome wireless service coverage issues. Moreover, micro radios improve the performance of the handset in the home because the radio resource is closer to the device. The signal is stronger and as a result, data rates are typically higher. Finally, offloading voice and data traffic to the micro radio access point frees up valuable macro network spectrum for outdoor mobile service delivery.

With a relatively small coverage radius (typically within the home), low-power access points constrain the home ‘zone’ and address the revenue leakage issue of alternative approaches. This improved Home Zone resolution helps operators keep the benefits of the HZ2.0 service confined to the home, where competition is most intense.

Second, HZ2.0 services use a subscriber’s existing home broadband access connection for backhauling mobile services. Broadband penetration in developed markets ranges from 35-60% of households. For mobile operators, broadband represents an ultra-low cost transport network that improves the margins for voice and data service delivery.

Also, a wired broadband network provides fast, reliable IP transport for new revenue-generating mobile data services. When delivered through high-speed 3G femtocells or Wi-Fi connections, subscribers get a true broadband mobile data experience.

Home Zone 2.0 is not just a concept; operators have begun to deploy services today. ABI Research recently published a report projecting the number of HZ2.0 (femtocell and dual-mode handset (DMH)-based) subscribers to reach more than 250 million worldwide by 2012.

Orange’s multi-national Unik/Unique HZ2.0 service offer, based on DMH and Wi-Fi, is among the most successful worldwide. Deployed for more than a year in France Orange’s Unik service has delivered a 10% increase in ARPU, and 15% of subscribers who take the service are new to Orange mobile.

In more recent months, the US has seen the industry’s first femtocell-based HZ2.0 offer. Sprint’s Airave service is currently in limited production, available in just two cities, but offers a promising glimpse at a femtocell service offer. The femtocell is available for a one-time fee of $49.95. For an additional $15/month, subscribers receive unlimited calling when in their Home Zone. This offer compares very favorably with competitive unlimited calling packages. Vonage, for example, offers unlimited in-home calling for $25/month.

Mobile operators have begun to realize the strategic imperative of HZ2.0. The home is an extremely competitive telecom location and represents an enormous growth opportunity. However, the existing macro radio network does not meet the cost or performance requirements to win the ‘battle for the building’.

Micro radio networks (femtocells and Wi-Fi) offer advantages for mobile operators to address indoor mobile radio performance. By leveraging broadband and IP as a backhaul network technology, operators can dramatically lower the cost of delivering services.

HZ2.0 services relying on broadband access and low power access points (femtocells and Wi-Fi) are being deployed by operators today. UMA is the technology that powers HZ2.0.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"This is like deja vu all over again"

Three years ago, when the concept of dual-mode handsets was just getting started, technology battle lines were drawn. There were two camps for providing seamless mobility in dual-mode handsets.

On one side was the ‘pragmatic’ UMA approach: UMA leverages the operators existing network elements and connects to the mobile core as a RAN gateway through standard interfaces.

The other side was a combination of IMS, SIP and VCC.

Constant battles were fought pitting UMA versus IMS (a RAN technology versus a ‘journey’ to an all IP core network); UMA versus SIP (a RAN technology against a session layer signaling protocol); and UMA versus VCC (a 3GPP standard RAN technology for mobile operators against a still-incomplete, almost-standard for fixed operators to connect the SIP core to the GSM mobile core).

In the end, UMA prevailed. It provides full-service transparency, security and scalability with a modest impact on the mobile core. If a mobile operator wants to roll out dual-mode service today, UMA is the only way.

As we enter 2008, a similar battle is shaping up around femtocells. The protocol for connecting the femtocell to the mobile core network has been divided into two camps.

On one side are the more pragmatic “Iu-over-IP” approaches. UMA, the only 3GPP standard Iu-over-IP approach, is leading the charge, but there are vendor specific approaches from Nokia/Siemens, ip.Access and others.

On the other side is some combination of IMS and SIP…again. Some have even erroneously thrown in VCC as a way to connect a femtocell to a mobile core.

As Yogi Berra famously said, “This is like déjà vu all over again!”

Will the SIP/IMS team be successful this time? It may be too early to say, but there are powerful forces behind the push for Iu-over-IP/UMA. Mobile operators do not want to burden the femtocell business case with new SIP/VoIP infrastructure. Many are drawn to the service transparency and relative simplicity of an Iu-over-IP/UMA approach. In the end, UMA is a proven, deployable technology.

2008 will be the year the two approaches duke it out. But if history is any indication, ‘pragmatic’ wins every time.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

2007 Predictions: How did I do?

In December 2006, I wrote my predictions for UMA technology and markets in 2007. As we close out the year, it’s time to look back. All in all, it’s been an excellent year for UMA.

Prediction 1: Dual-mode handset models will more than double.

Reality: Correct! Reality surpassed our expectations.

At the close of 2006, there were just three models commercially available: the Samsung T709, P200 and the Nokia 6136.

As of today, there are many more devices: Samsung’s T409, T739, P260; Nokia’s 6086, 6301; RIM’s 8820, 8320; Sagem’s my419; and LG’s brand new KE520.

The Motorola A910, announced in 2006, became available for sale from BT this year. Given the Nokia 6136 and Samsung P200 are still available, the industry will close out the year with 12 commercially available handsets; a four-fold increase over 2006. Excellent progress.

Prediction 2: Subscriber count will go through the roof.

Reality: Half correct, we don’t have comprehensive reports.

Orange had suggested they would have about 1m users in France in 2007. It appears that they will be quite close to that mark. Unfortunately, reporting of numbers is sporadic. At the end of April, Orange reported 175,000 units. The last number, announced in September, was 468,000 handsets sold, with one phone from Samsung, Nokia, and Sagem each.

Going into the holiday season, the Orange handset line-up currently includes the hot-selling Nokia 6301, the new LG KE520, and the extremely popular RIM 8820. We won’t know the final tally until February or so, but I think they could round out the year with close to 1 million units sold.

While Orange publishes at least some numbers, T-Mobile US and Telia have been silent about the uptake of their services. We have lots of anecdotal and confidential information that subscribers are taking their dual-mode handset services, but there are unfortunately few public numbers to reference.

Prediction 3: More operators will launch UMA service.

Reality: Correct.

T-Mobile US, Cincinnati Bell, Telia Sweden, and NetCom Norway all announced service in 2007. There are now 12 service offers in nine countries. Dual-mode services continue to grow. While I was hoping for more, four new operators offering UMA service is a great accomplishment.

Prediction 4: VCC will actually be understood by the market.

Reality: Correct.

VCC has so many holes in terms of features and capabilities, no mobile operator will deploy it. The company that was leading the charge, Bridgeport, has all but abandoned it’s mission. The industry organization founded to promote VCC, MobileIGNITE, has been dead for months. No major handset vendor supports it. The standard is still not completed in the 3GPP, and there are no actual VCC deployments in the market. I think the market understands the UMA is the 3GPP standard for convergence and that VCC is a non-starter. Enough said.

Now, what’s in store for 2008…

Thursday, December 06, 2007

TI Changes Horses

As reported by Unstrung Wednesday, Telecom Italia (TI) has shelved its UMA-based Unica service offer in favor of a ‘home grown’ SIP-based solution.

The article goes on to say that TI is re-launching Unica using a SIP client available on one phone, the Nokia E65. Ironic since the UMA-based Unica service was thought to have a ‘limited availability of handsets.

The new service is part of TI’s quad-play push. My Italian is a bit rusty, but after reviewing the web site, I believe that subscribers of the new Unica service must have TI Mobile (TIM) GSM service, as well as TI’s fixed-line VoIP service Alice.

The new Unica service is about putting Alice on the E65 device.

It’s not the same

I believe this is a key element that was overlooked in the article and in TI’s decision. UMA-Unica and SIP-Unica are actually very different services.

The UMA version of Unica was about delivering mobile services over IP and broadband -- make the mobile service work better and cost less when the subscriber is indoors and connected via Wi-Fi. UMA is a mobile centric service for fixed-mobile substitution.

The SIP version of Unica is about putting a fixed-line VoIP service (Alice) on a handset. The subscriber ends up with two services on one phone. One is the traditional GSM service; the second makes the E65 behave like an in-home cordless phone for the Alice service. You won't find this service marketed on the Telecom Italia Mobile site, it's only on

In the end, the SIP-Unica service has no technical barrier to entry. Any user can download any SIP client onto any E65 device. TI has chosen to package this up into a service. This is the same business model as Truephone. From a regulatory perspective, any operator (actually any person) can provide the same service.

It’s clear the UMA and SIP versions are different services and will appeal to subscribers with different needs. The UMA-Unica comes from the mobile division, the SIP-Unica from the fixed division.

The bigger question is: what type of demand is there for a mobile phone with a fixed-line VoIP client? We all remember how successful T-One was.

A final thought

It’s clear UMA technically works and operators are deploying it successfully (Orange, T-Mobile, Telia,…). The problems with the UMA-Unica were not technology based. The issues with Unica were internal. Those watching the mobile market saw countless articles this year about TI’s unfortunate political struggles.

Changing the underlying technologies of the Unica service won’t solve the politics. In fact, putting the fixed division’s service on the mobile division’s device is likely to make things even more contentious.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

LG's new KE520 For Sale at Orange

The much anticipated UMA device from LG is available commercially from the Orange France web site.

The KE520 is a well-featured, tri-mode slider handset that includes 802.11 b/g and UMA.

With a non-contract price of 199€ (or just 1€ with contract), the KE520 is once again showing that Wi-Fi-enabled handsets are not necessarily expensive.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rumor: Blackberry Pearl

As reported on MobileBurn, the FCC web site recently published information about a new Blackberry Pearl (8120).

In keeping up with RIM CEO’s Rick Balsillie’s comment that there is “unbelievable” potential in Wi-Fi, this new handset is reported to have UMA/Wi-Fi capability as well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

RIM sees “unbelievable” potential in Wi-Fi and UMA

The Canadian Press today reported on RIM’s co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, comments about the current state of the market. Quoting from the article:

[Balsillie] sees “unbelievable” potential in Wi-Fi technology and UMA – unlicensed mobile access, a system allowing seamless roaming between local area networks and wide area networks, delivering voice, data and Internet access to mobile devices.

This convergence, Balsillie said, is “incredibly positive to a carrier that thoughtfully embraces it.”
It sounds like we can expect more UMA-enabled devices from RIM.

UMA/GAN standards adds Iu-mode (3G) support

At last week’s 3GPP meeting in Vancouver, the GERAN working group approved the CR (change request) that adds Iu-mode support to the UMA/GAN Stage 2 specification.

The addition of Iu-mode support to the UMA/GAN specification now also enables the development of UMA-enabled devices (dual-mode handsets, femtocells) that can leverage the 3G (Iu-CS/Iu-PS) interfaces into the core mobile network.

UMA started as a 2G technology and now supports both native 3G and 2G interfaces. The standard continues to evolve with mobile RAN.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Bluetooth over Wi-Fi?

In a little noticed announcement last week, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has agreed to develop a fast version of Bluetooth running over Wi-Fi. As reported by Peter Judge at TechWorld, the article talks about the SIG’s disappointment in the delivery of Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) support in handsets.

John Barr, chairman of the Bluetooth SIG and director of standards realization at Motorola commented: “Delays in ultra-wide band have caused Motorolato switch its focus. There is an increasing demand for Wi-Fi in mobile devices.” There was no comment on Motorola’s plans for UMA-enabled handsets.

This might put the problem of side-by-side Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support in phones to rest. Wi-Fi can do it all.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Samsung T739 to T-Mobile

As reported by Engadget, the Samsung T739 should be available at T-Mobile Dec 3. How does Engadget know?

This brings the number of HotSpot@Home phones to four (Nokia 6086, T409, T739, RIM). Not bad.

Sonus Touts VCC

Vaughn O’Grady, editor of the GSM>3G Vision newsletter, published an interview today with Andy Odgers, vice president of wireless technologies with Sonus. The article is titled “Networks: the VCC version.”

I believe this was in response to an interview Vaughn and I did some weeks back which was (surprise, surprise) very UMA-centric. To be fair and balanced, Vaughn interviewed the ‘other side’, Sonus, who touted VCC as the path to convergence.

As readers of this blog know, I predicted that 2007 was the year that the industry would realize the short comings of VCC and begin to turn against it. UMA is the clear technology choice for mobile operators, whereas fixed operators, who have invested in SIP VoIP switches, are the only operators to potentially benefit from VCC.

Yet VCC has three major short comings:

- There is no data session continuity. As the title clearly states, it’s about VOICE call continuity. Start a streaming data session when on Wi-Fi, walk out the front door, and the session drops. Excellent.

- There is no support for supplemental mobile services. I can’t imagine that SMS wouldn’t be carried forward, but capabilities like MMS, ring tone downloads, over the air updates, or any other mobile application beyond voice is not supported. Again, the name clearly states VOICE CALL continuity, no continuity for anything other than voice calls.

- VCC is still not a standard. I honestly don’t know why this is. UMA went from proposal to the 3GPP in September 2004 to ratification in Release 6 in April 2005. VCC was introduced at least 2 years ago and it’s still not completed.

Perhaps Bridgeport, one of the biggest early VCC supports, was the proverbial canary in the coal mine. They shifted away from dual-mode and VCC more than a year ago. Their industry venture MobileIgnite is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Something is definitely not right in VCC land.

Yet Sonus has recently decided that VCC is the path forward for the mobile network.

I think the misunderstanding about UMA is common for people from the SIP world. He suggests that because networks are moving to IP and that “ handsets become SIP-enabled – which they are supposed to be in the IMS model, eventually – you’ve solved your [mobility] problem.”

For some reason, simply saying “SIP” immediately implies mobility.

UMA is a RAN technology, akin to 3G. SIP, of course, is NOT a RAN technology. In fact, SIP has no knowledge of the actual transport layer. So why would putting SIP on a handset suddenly make it capable of moving from the 3G network to a Wi-Fi network? It wouldn’t.

In fact, it’s UMA that will keep SIP blissfully unaware of the underlying transport (Wi-Fi, 3G, GSM,...) and free from that complex mobility issue. Put a SIP client on a UMA handset and SIP gets full mobility between networks today, not “...eventually...”.

But I think it’s this comment that really highlights the issue:

“UMA is an interim that has no future; it doesn’t really fit in with an IP core.”

UMA is the structural foundation for mobile operators to use broadband and IP as *the* low cost RAN technology for service delivery in the home and office. It is the future.

Suggesting that a RAN technology like UMA doesn’t fit with an IP core is like suggesting that 3G doesn’t fit with an IP core. It comes down to a lack of understanding.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Femtocells get 'boring'

Yesterday, Michelle Donegan with Unstrung posted a story about her experiences with installing and setting up a femtocell. In a word, the story was ‘boring’.

I say it was boring because there was no drama, no complex settings, no difficult radio resource planning, no back end configurations.

Michelle was with the folks from Ubiquisys. And as advertised, she simply plugged in the femtocell and started to use it. She had a relatively boring ‘plug and play’ femtocell experience.

In this ever complex world, a 'boring' femtocell solution is exactly what we need.

Unfortunate UMA’s role in making the femtocell plug and play was left out.

Ubiquisys uses UMA as the femtocell to core network protocol. One of the reasons why it was ‘plug and play’ is that UMA already contains a robust femtocell ‘discovery’ procedure. The femtocell can automatically determine the appropriate UMA Network Controller based on location.

Also, UMA already contains detailed ‘access control’ policy management, so the operator can determine if the femtocell should be enabled for service, and then if a specific handset can use that specific femtocell to receive services.

This is not to take anything away from Ubiquisys. Certainly the RF planning is a very difficult and complex task which they have clearly been able to handle better than most. As Will Franks from Ubiquisys says in the article, “It costs a lot of money to build a box with no buttons.”

But Ubiquisys’s decision to leverage UMA is also part of their plan for simplicity. With UMA, so many of the basic protocol elements such as discovery, access control, security and scalability which are so critical for making a ‘technology’ into a deployable ‘service’ have already been addressed.

Ubiquisys is ready to start selling millions of femtocells way before any of their competitors. This is in a small part to the fact that their back end solution, UMA, already works as advertised.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

T-Mobile Wins 2007 Telephony Innovation Award

At the Telephony Live event taking place in Dallas, T-Mobile’s HotSpot@Home service was recognized as the Most Innovative Consumer Service for Telephony Magazine's 2007 Innovation Awards.

In accepting the award, T-Mobile product manager Kevin Kvarda said that the launch of @Home was the culmination careful planning and preparation to ensure the service exceeded customer expectations, and it was an honor to be recognized for such innovation and effort. The service is just getting started, said Kevin, and we should look for more to come.

Congratulations T-Mobile.

Friday, October 05, 2007

So, how cool is it?

Now that the RIM 8320 is available from T-Mobile (and easier for us in California to get than Orange’s 8820), many people ask “How cool is it?”

It’s true that several people in the office have 8320 with UMA and the feedback has been very positive. But a review on Mobile Tech Review has captured our sentiments and more:

Now T-Mobile goes one better with the Curve 8320 which adds not only WiFi but UMA for phone calling over WiFi networks. That's what we call a killer application in tech lingo: something new, cool and downright useful that might just start a new technology trend.
We agree, RIM and T-Mobile definitely have a winning combination.

Dual-mode phones: Influencing the Euro mobile market

Industry research firm Instat announced yesterday the availability of a new report which highlights 10 key trends in the European handset market. Among the trends is the growing demand for dual-mode handsets. Given Orange’s continued success, it’s really no surprise.

Check out the report here.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wi-Fi: A 'feature' or a 'technology'?

A research company sent me the outline of a report on the global mobile device market. In it, they promoted the fact that they had a comprehensive list of market statistics that could be divided up by region, handset tier, by technology and by feature.

The ‘technologies’ listed included the usual RAN suspects: GSM, GPRS, EDGE, CDMA ..., HSxPA, WiMAX, LTE,...

The ‘features’ listed the same usual suspects: email, IM, camera, video, MP3, GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.

This got me thinking: Is Wi-Fi a ‘feature’ or a ‘technology’?

For any non-UMA-enabled dual-mode phone, the answer is clear that Wi-Fi is a feature. The iPhone, any Nokia E series, or Wi-Fi enabled HTC devices all list Wi-Fi as a feature. This is because Wi-Fi is not essential to the operation of the device. These are essentially GSM mobile phones, and the addition of (or lack of) Wi-Fi does not impact the core capability of the device (the ability to make a phone call).

Sure, the iPhone has gotten close to ‘seamless integration’ of Wi-Fi as a *feature* on a device, but I’m sure there’s a large percentage of people who never use the Wi-Fi ‘feature’ or who only use it infrequently.

I contrast this with a UMA-enabled dual-mode Wi-Fi device. In this case, Wi-Fi is used every day. Any time the subscriber is at home or even in the office, the phone is connected to Wi-Fi. Not that the subscriber has to know or care, but Wi-Fi is actually rather essential to the operation of the device. When attached to Wi-Fi, voice services, SMS, MMS, all mobile services are delivered over the Wi-Fi radio.

Certainly for people who acquired a UMA-enabled device to ensure coverage in the home, this is a fundamental requirement and therefore is not just a ‘feature’, but more of a core ‘technology’ of the handset.

I think it’s fair to compare the operation of a UMA-enabled dual-mode phone with the operation of an equally ‘dual-mode’ phone: 3G. I say ‘dual-mode’ because all 3G phones come with 2G RAN technology as well. A subscriber using a 3G phone doesn’t spend too much timing thinking about whether the phone is connected to the 2G or 3G network. The phone just works. The subscriber doesn’t expect there to be any service interruption or disruption that comes from a 3G/2G device. Frankly, this is exactly how Wi-Fi/UMA works in a ‘dual-mode’ phone as well.

I know that T-Mobile with their HotSpot @Home service does not consider Wi-Fi to be a ‘feature’. For T-Mobile, Wi-Fi (with UMA) is a core RAN technology. It is literally a second RAN technology. T-Mobile has a nationwide 2.5G network, and by rolling out HotSpot @Home, they now have a second RAN technology.

Perhaps the definition is that Wi-Fi by itself is a ‘feature’, but UMA-enabled Wi-Fi is a RAN ‘technology’.

I think this gets down to a core issue that the market isn’t seeing. The operators who are doing UMA/Wi-FI aren’t doing it because it’s an interesting feature, they are doing it as a second (or third in the case of Orange) RAN technology.

We have always said “UMA is a parallel access network,” but it’s clear this message isn’t getting through.

Monday, October 01, 2007

UK Operators unleash ‘flat rate’ data plans

The BBC reported today that T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and Three offer flat rate price plans for internet access on mobile phones. O2 will launch a plan in October prior to the iPhone launch.

In the article, Richard Warmsley, head of internet at T-Mobile, comments that 500,000 people have signed up for their ‘web and walk’ service in 18 months. Mr. Warmsley goes on to add:

Half of our customers surf the internet on their mobile when they are at home watching TV. They do not need to go to a laptop and fire it up. The mobile is there for them.”

Key take-away #1: As an operator, if 50% of your data traffic is generated at home, use Wi-Fi and UMA rather than the more expensive macro RAN.

Another interesting point in the article is that flat rate pricing apparently boosts downloads from an average of 0.18 megabytes to 0.60 megabytes, more than 3x in capacity.

Key take-way #2: Is your network ready for a 3x increase in data traffic/capacity, especially when 50% of that traffic is happening at home within range of Wi-Fi and could be off-loaded to broadband & IP?

There is a chart in the article which shows the different rates:

  • T-Mobile - £7.50/month (1 GB limit)
  • Vodafone - £7.50/month (120 MB limit)
  • Orange - £8.00/month (30 MB limit)
  • Three - £5/month (1 GB limit)
  • O2 - £7.50/month (200 MB limit)

Key take away #3: As an operator, prices for flat rate data plans are going to come down. Clearly Three is already one third the price of the T-Mobile plan. Therefore, making massive capacity investments to support more traffic at less revenue per user is not ideal.

Wi-Fi, IP and broadband look more attractive all the time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

UMA device rumor: Motorola Marco

It appears that we here at UMA Today have missed a rumored new device. Back in July, The Boy Genius Reports revealed a new device code named “Marco” which is apparently includes Wi-Fi and UMA.

We have heard internal rumors of such a device as well, but did not realize it had been outed through the blogsphere.

Will Marco make its commercial launch? Or is it destines to the same fate as the A910? Samsung and Nokia and many others continue to roll out new UMA devices, while Motorola is conspicuously absent from the party. Marco would definitely capture attention with operators like T-Mobile, Orange and Telia.

I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see.

A vision of convergence

Recently a very unique event took place. Four visionary leaders in UMA technology sat down with Ed Sperling, editor in chief of Electronic News, for a round table discussion about convergence, mobile/Wi-Fi services and UMA technology. In attendance were Muzibul Khan, VP of product management and engineering at Samsung; Ton van Kampen, VP of business development at NXP; Chris Caldwell, product development manager at T-Mobile, and Mark Powell, VP and founder of Kineto Wireless.

Take a moment to read the full article.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wi-Fi phones don't have to be expensive

This week brought the announcement of the latest product from Nokia, the 6301, UMA-enabled dual-mode device. This is an update to the extremely popular 6300.

In the press release from Nokia, the 6301 has a suggested price of €230 before rebates/subsidies. Given the current exchange rate, a price of €230 gave me pause... ‘Uh oh, another expensive UMA device...”

That got me thinking, what is the premium to the 6301 (clearly it must be more expensive because it has Wi-Fi!) compared with the ‘classic’ 6300?

The internet is a wonderful place, and after a short search, I found an article which covered the launch of the 6300. Surprisingly enough, the suggested price of the 6300 at launch was €250. Hummm... Now I’m impressed.

Certainly time and volumes have helped to lower prices, but I must say I was quite surprised to find the original, non-Wi-Fi version was originally priced €20 higher than the new, UMA-enabled version.

Even more surprising was a quick check of the web site, which has the 6300 currently priced at €229 as part of a web special. Now I’m very impressed.

I’m not sure when the market will stop saying “Wi-Fi = expensive”. Of course, the iPhone doesn’t help, nor the fact that nearly every other Wi-Fi enabled device is at the high end of the spectrum. Perhaps we need a new campaign, if “Wi-Fi = expensive”, then “UMA = value”. UMA-enabled phones are not dramatically more expensive than any other device.

For those who click through on the article about the 6300, you’ll notice it was the same time Nokia introduced the 6086, it’s second UMA-enabled product. There is some irony.

Monday, September 17, 2007

FMC Fading?... Depends on the market

Last week posted an article announcing that the “FMC hype is fading”. What they didn’t clarify in the title is that Yankee Group analyst Brian Kotlyar, who made the comment, was talking specifically about the enterprise.

For the enterprise: I agree. The hype around enterprise FMC is fading fast. That’s because enterprises and enterprise solution vendors alike are realizing that what enterprises really want from an FMC solution isn’t a PBX client on the phone, what they really want is the mobile to work better and cost less.

For regular readers of the blog, you will recall that all successful dual-mode handset services have been targeted at consumers. There has been talk about dual-mode services for the enterprise, but they have always missed the mark.

I was at lunch with a colleague the other day who works for an ‘enterprise’ solution provider. Being suppliers of FMC solutions to different markets (Kineto to mobile operators, my colleague to enterprises), we were able to compare notes.

The premise of the enterprise solution is that the enterprise FMC application is overlaid on top of a normal mobile/GSM phone service. There appear to be three basic benefits.

When in the enterprise, calls that come into the PBX are routed over Wi-Fi/VoIP to the handset. Thus employees are ‘mobile’ in the office. Second, when out of the office, calls to the PBX number are routed to the mobile so the employee is ‘always available’. I’m not sure that’s a benefit just yet, I get a lot of calls overnight to my desk number that I really don’t want ringing in my house in the middle of the night. Third, users have a corporate phone book with four digit dialing in the office or out.

While there were several things about their enterprise solution that struck me, two things really stood out:

First, when my colleague is out of the office in GSM, and a call comes into his desk number, the enterprise FMC controller has to hairpin that call out to the GSM network to ‘find’ the employee. The impact on the enterprise is high. Now a call to a PBX extension takes TWO trunk lines, one for the inbound call, one for the outbound call. Not exactly a ‘cost savings’ just yet.

Second, I noticed his phone was using the EDGE network to update/synchronize data with the server in the enterprise. I asked if he needed to get an unlimited data package on the phone. Yes, of course, but he already had the data package because the Nokia e61 he used was for email as well.

Again, I’m not sure where the savings is if an enterprise FMC solution requires users to get all you can eat data packages to enable the service.

It is said that only 20-30% of employees are mobile and have devices/service plans paid for by the enterprise. This is because they tend to be expensive devices (Nokia e61) which require expensive mobile plans (all you can eat data).

I thought the ‘target’ of enterprise FMC services was the ‘other’ 70%, people who could benefit from mobility in/around the office if it was more cost effective. But if the cost of unwiring the ‘other half’ includes the same expensive devices with the same expensive data plans, plus the added expense of an enterprise FMC controller and more PBX trunk lines, I’m not sure where the cost savings is going to come from to make it more affordable.

Analyst house the Yankee Group said this week that even though the publicity surrounding FMC is being succeeded by more recent developments, the technology still has strong potential to shake up the communications market for enterprise voice and mobility. But uptake will only be driven by shifting the focus to FMC's features, rather than its potential for cutting costs.

Focus on features rather than cost? To me, that sounds like trying to make the 20-30% of employees already with mobile service more productive, rather than trying to unwire the ‘other half’.

What would be a good way to get low cost, high performance wireless service to enterprise workers? Wait a minute, doesn’t T-Mobile offer ‘unlimited calling over Wi-Fi’ for just $10/month? But the phones, they must be expensive and costly, right? Well, the Nokia and Samsung handsets are $50 with a two year commitment. There must be an expensive calling packet required, right? No, the HotSpot @Home service is available as an add-on to any $40/month calling package.

Hummm... it looks like there already is a way to un-wire the ‘other half’ of enterprise workers.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Sprint likes femtocells - not really a surprise

As reported by Doug Mahoney with VON from a conference in Chicago, Sprint Director of Signaling and Control Technology Manish Mangal stated that the company favored femtocells over Voice over Wi-Fi solutions.

Well, that’s not a surprise at all. For a company like Sprint, the only viable option for voice over Wi-Fi is an approach similar to VCC. As readers of this blog know, I have nothing good to say about VCC.

It’s a train wreck: burdensome to the network, complex t to install, and still not a ratified standard.

VCC isn’t tightly integrated into the phone or network. It’s sort of a ‘loose coupling’ which results in a poor hand-over experience and a high impact on battery performance.

But most of all, VCC delivers a very poor, fragmented user experience. Because subscribers are served from a different core network depending on the RAN they are using, subscriber get different services. How do you explain to someone that their phone can’t download ringtones or send an MMS when on Wi-Fi, but they can when on the CDMA network?

Don't take my word for it, Manish says the same things below:

“We’ve been testing voice over Wi-Fi,” stated Mangal, “There’s lot of hurdles [in implementing it], and no benefits. “There are so many technical issues to make it work.” Problems including the failure of dual-mode devices to catch on in the U.S. “We’ve sold [dual-mode devices], customers aren’t buying them,” he said, deterred by higher price points. Most current wireless networks were deployed as data networks, and haven’t been optimized for voice, so upgrading is expensive. More management time and demands for longer battery life round out the set of problems VoWi-Fi users have listed.

If Sprint’s comments are any indication, our analysis of VCC continues to be dead on. It's funny, operators rolling UMA-based dual-mode services don't have these problems at all.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Orange UK targets teleworkers

As reported at Pocket-Lint, a UK based technology blog, Orange UK is making available a ‘comprehensive portfolio of solutions’ in a service called ‘Open Office’. The service takes advantage of Orange’s new Unique offer with a new a tariff bundle.

Orange continues to push Unique forward.

Orange launches "Open Office" for flexible workers

"Flexible solutions for forward-thinking firms"

by Amy-Mae Elliott

4 September 2007 12:15 GMT - Orange Business Services today announced the launch of Open Office, that they describe as a comprehensive portfolio of solutions designed to offer unrivalled choice and convenience for flexible workers.

With more and more people working from home with Open Office, Orange customers will be able to select from a range of "flexible working tools" that includes home broadband, dedicated tariff bundles.

The "Unique" UMA (Universal Mobile Access) phone service is also included, which allows customers to use a single handset for all their calls, whether at home over wi-fi or on the move using the Orange mobile network.

A range of mobile email platforms will also be offered, including BlackBerry and Microsoft, alongside the Orange Business Everywhere mobile laptop offering.

The dedicated tariff bundles will be available for the full portfolio of Orange business handsets. For those that opt for Unique, the service will be available with the BlackBerry 8820, the Nokia 6086 and the Samsung P260 from mid-September, with other devices available during the autumn.

Friday, August 31, 2007

A BIG week for a FEMTO standard

A little event occurred in Dublin this week that could have big implications for the Femtocell market…

As we all know, standardizing the interface between Femtocells and the core mobile network is one of the big challenges that must be met before the Femtocell market can really take off (see the UMA Today webinar or whitepaper for more info).

Well, at the 3GPP GERAN standards meeting in Dublin this week, a formal work item was started to add the necessary changes to UMA specifications to accommodate femtocells. With hard work and a small bit of luck, 3GPP could have the work completed by February of next year. This is key milestone.

I hope everyone at the meeting raised a glass of that classic Irish beverage and proposed a toast.

Monday, August 27, 2007

All dual-mode phones are NOT alike

A common misconception is that all dual-mode phones are the same. Many people consider Wi-Fi enabled phones to be expensive and have poor battery life.

I’d like to dispel this myth by making a distinction between UMA and non-UMA enabled devices. I concur that non-UMA dual-mode handsets are often higher end (and therefore more expensive) and have poor battery performance (when in Wi-Fi). However, UMA-enabled devices are often mid-tier feature phones with respectable if not ‘stellar’ battery performance.

Fundamentally, UMA is a technology for mobile operators. It is designed to make Wi-Fi (and IP and broadband) ‘friendly’ to the mobile operator. So, what is UMA’s secret?

When a UMA-enabled dual-mode phone enters a known Wi-Fi coverage area (home, office), the phone automatically and seamlessly switches from the GSM network to the Wi-Fi network. Now the connection between the phone and the mobile network is over the public internet rather than the GSM radio access network. Because it’s not used when the phone is in Wi-Fi coverage, the GSM radio is put into a sleep/hibernate mode.

If/when a call arrives for the handset, the call is routed through the UMA tunnel over the internet to the handset, and the GSM radio is not used.

This is one key element of improving battery performance in UMA-enabled handsets. By putting the GSM radio in a sleep mode, the phone continues to run a single radio. Anyone who has run their Bluetooth radio all day knows that having two radios on in a phone significantly impacts the battery performance.

Contrast this with the operation of a non-UMA dual-mode phone. As the phone enters a known Wi-Fi location, generally the user needs to turn on or enable the Wi-Fi radio. Primarily this is because the battery impact is so great that ‘automatic’ Wi-Fi usage would have the un-intended consequence of sucking the battery dry.

Now with the Wi-Fi radio is operating and associated with an access point. But to make or receive GSM calls, the GSM radio must remain on as well. In a non-UMA device, the only connection between the mobile core network and the handset is over the existing GSM link. In this case, Wi-Fi is simply a bolt-on to the phone’s primary function as a GSM communications device.

There are many implications of this ‘bolt on’ approach.

First, people with non-UMA devices don’t use the Wi-Fi connection much if at all. The performance hit to the handset is too great for regular usage. Certainly with iPhone, the largest selling dual-mode device on the market, most people tend to use the EDGE data connection rather than Wi-Fi.

Second, there is no session mobility for non-UMA devices. Start surfing on the Wi-Fi connection, and if you walk out the door to GSM, that connection is lost. Wi-Fi and GSM are typically completely different subsystems on a non-UMA device. Of course with UMA, there is full session mobility for voice, data and IMS applications between Wi-Fi and the GSM network.

Third, because Wi-Fi is typically bolted onto a non-UMA device for basic data services, the Wi-Fi sub-system is not optimized for a mobile device. This was a common problem for the first UMA-enabled handsets. The Wi-Fi subsystems were simply ported from laptops and behaved like they were running on (relatively) power in-sensitive devices like PCs rather than on handsets.

Companies like NXP have invested tremendous resources in optimizing Wi-Fi (radio, stacks) to be voice-centric rather than laptop/PC centric. This optimization has paid off well, as the performance of their t409 product achieves 8 hours of talk time in Wi-Fi, according to one analyst.

Many see dual-mode devices as the next growth opportunity for Wi-Fi. This is certainly true. But there is a big difference between non-UMA and UMA-enabled devices.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Linksys joins in UMA-enabled ATA market

As reported on-line by Engadget through FCC filing, Linksys has developed an analog terminal adaptor (ATA) based on UMA technology for T-Mobile US.

UMA is fundamentally about FMS and enabling the mobile operator to deliver services over the public internet. With this new Linksys product, T-Mobile is now able to offer a fixed line VoIP service in the home similar to what Vonage and others deliver.

Why would T-Mobile do this when they have a perfectly good dual-mode handset service already available? It’s one more tool to accelerate FMS. In our household, my wife doesn’t particularly like walking around with her mobile phone stuck to her ear. It puts a kink in her neck.

However, our larger Panasonic cordless/DECT phone, connected to the incumbent fixed line provider, is more ergonomically pleasing. The idea is that we would port our fixed line number to T-Mobile who would provide us the ATA, and our fixed services would come from T-Mobile over our existing broadband network. Now T-Mobile can capture our entire in home voice usage, from both mobiles as well as the fixed line, through this terminal adaptor.

This let's mobile operators offer a Vonage-like service.

Note that this joins the already available Motorola RSG-3500 available from the Connected Homes Group.

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: UMA is really a ‘universal’ access technology for delivering any and all mobile services over IP; dual-mode phones, femtocells, terminal adaptors,... UMA let’s mobile operators harness the cost and performance advantages of IP to accelerate FMS.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Orange goes FREE

One of the anticipated dual-mode handset commercial launches is Orange in the UK. They have trialed the service for some time now. Things looked quite promising when two week ago Blackberry announced the first operator for the UMA-enabled 8820 was to be Orange UK.

But after checking the web site last week, it looks like Orange has some more tricks up its sleeve.

When subscribers sign up for the ‘Unique’ offer, they receive ‘unlimited’ calling to Orange UK mobiles as well as fixed lines in the UK. In addition, they receive ‘unlimited’ calling to fixed lines in 25 countries in Europe plus the US.

The best part is, this is all FREE with any service plan above £30.

Simply ‘purchase’ a Unique enabled phone (which is also FREE with an 18 mos service commitment), and Orange UK subscribers automatically get calls the Orange UK mobiles, UK fixed lines, and calls to fixed lines in 25 other countries for FREE.

How can that be?

Certainly it’s no secret that the UK has an incredible competitive mobile market. Churn is a costly issue. In all fairness, in the Orange UK T&Cs, ‘unlimited’ actually means ‘fair use’ which is defined as 1,000/month of UK calling and 1,000/month of international calling. Still, that’s quite a bit of calling for no charge.

One can image that the Orange team struggled with how to inspire the UK consumer with something new and Unique? It’s a crowded market, how does one win new subscribers and hold on to existing customers? FREE is a word that gets people’s attention.

At the end of the day, Orange is really looking to lock up subscribers between their mobile and broadband service. But offering these types of incentives, Orange is looking to convert (or sign up new) broadband subscribers.

The rumor is that Orange will start a marketing push after the summer.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Samsung brings another... the P260

Samsung has announced several new phones this week including the P260, called the replacement for the early P200. It is my understanding that this device is based on the highly optimized NXP 5210 platform. This is the platform in T-Mobile T409 device.

It looks like Samsung/NXP have a hit with this platform combo and they will be extending it into as many devices as possible.

Other specs for Samsung P260 slider include:

  • 262K color 240×320 pixel display
  • 2 megapixel camera
  • 25MB internal and microSD memory card
  • MP3/MPEG4 media player with flight mode
  • Stereo Bluetooth and USB connectivity
  • 960 mAh Lion batter with 3h talk and 220 h stand-by
  • Dimensions: 101×50x17 mm
  • Weight: 119g

Look for this device in Europe initially. There are rumors of a US version of this slider phone coming to T-Mobile as well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

EE Times on femtocells

This is a well done piece on femtocells by John Walko at EE Times.

Personally, I liked the fact that UMA was listed as one of three approaches for backhauling femtocells. The other two (Iu-B and SIP) are a struggle. For operators looking to trial in 2007 and deploy in 2008. UMA has many very clear advantages.

One odd comment in the article was...

“Femtocells represent the first real threat to the increasing dominance of Wi-Fi routers in the home...”

Given they operate at a frequency which is licensed, owned and managed, I’m not sure it’s really a ‘threat’ as much as a new way for mobile operators to use their spectrum. I think Bruno Dachary of Orange offers a different take:

"It is strange to hear people talking about femtocells as a consumer product similar to say a Wi-Fi router. This is not right… these are operator products as they use spectrum owned and managed by operators, and we will rent them to users to retain control," said Dachary.
There is a bit of foreshadowing in his comments. Also a vision that Wi-Fi and femtocells will be deployed and used different, perhaps side-by-side in the Orange network... Only time will tell.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Orange pulls the UMA RIM?

From the 'Mashup of Mayhem' blog in the UK:

Orange have announced that they will be launching the BlackBerry 8820 will be at the end of July which will replace the BlackBerry 8800 in Orange’s portfolio.

The 8820 is a revamped 8800 that offers all the functionality of the 8800 and combines it with UMA (The ability to use WiFi VoIP and Cellular in the same device). The 8820 therefor supports Orange’s Unique offering where home workers can roam onto Orange’s Unique VoIP service via the Internet through their Orange Broadband connection when in their home location.

Email on the go and UMA is a great feature, HP have combined the options in the iPAQ 514 Voice Communicator (still waiting HP!!) on the Windows Mobile 6 Platform so it’s good to see RIM following suite for those Blackberry users out there.

I'm not sure where Orange UK announced this, but if it's on a blog, it must be true. A quick check of the Orange UK/Unique site shows the Blackberry is not listed as a Unique phone yet, but perhaps it's on it's way.

And now that you mention it, where is that HP device? It's shaping up to be a good summer for UMA-enabled phones.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

RIM’s new Wi-Fi Blackberry

doesn’t support UMA yet...

In a story from Reuters, RIM announced the new 8820, its new Wi-Fi enabled Blackberry, will be available initially to AT&T subscribers 'later this summer'.

It’s too much to ask for that the device would come out for T-Mobile/HotSpot@Home first. But now that I think about it, it is ‘too much to ask’. AT&T probably doesn’t have much in the way of Wi-Fi requirements, whereas T-Mobile does.

After studying what it takes to deliver services over Wi-Fi, T-Mobile likely has a pretty extensive set of requirements for the device to ensure seamless mobility, optimal performance and stellar battery life. One example, T-Mobile uses APSD (auto-power save delivery, part of 802.11e) technology between the access point and device to extend battery life.

Because AT&T doesn’t use Wi-Fi for mobile service delivery (ie no UMA), they are likely to be happy with any old Wi-Fi implementation. T-Mobile knows what it takes to deliver a Wi-Fi experience consumers want.

While I’m disappointed that the 8820 is going AT&T first, it completely makes sense. RIM needs to do it right for T-Mobile.

PS - don't worry, we know the UMA version is coming...

Comments on HotSpot@Home

From the SciFi Tech blog comes a compilation of comments on T-Mobile’s service. Should we be worried that UMA is covered as a topic in a “Science Fiction” blog? It’s clear that cellular/Wi-Fi is not sci-fi any more.

I wanted to offer up some comments on the reviews:

"Unfortunately, the service needs some ironing out. Say I walk into a Starbucks. If the cellular signal remains strong, it can take up to three minutes for my phone to switch to Wi-Fi and stop consuming my calling plan minutes. That's because, in an effort to save battery power, the phone sniffs around for Wi-Fi connections only every once in a while… I also dislike the available handsets." , BusinessWeek

As Olga freely points out, there is a trade-off: save battery life, or save a minute of a phone call. Apparently when T-Mobile decided to save on battery, the result is a service that needs ‘ironing out’. Another reviewer called the battery performance on the t409 "absolutely stellar". Oddly enough, over the past years, the primary complaint about GSM/Wi-Fi devices is battery life.

PS - Billing doesn't change when you walk into (or out of) a hotspot. The call is billed at the start rate (cellular or Wi-Fi), regardless of where it finishes.

"Calls over the Wi-Fi network sounded exactly the same as GSM calls. True to their word, we [sic] didn't notice that our phone had switched from one to the other, except in one rare circumstance…. It isn't hard to find cell-phone users who have problems with reception, even in their own homes. With HotSpot@Home, not only is reception no longer a significant issue at home, with Wi-Fi networks at work and wherever users frequent, the service offers customers more control." , infoSync World

"Call quality was nothing extraordinary…. Overall, we're very pleased with the service. The GSM/Wi-Fi transition could be a lot smoother, and we wish that we could actually use the Wi-Fi to surf the Web (Web surfing is unfortunately stuck to EDGE speeds — a bummer)." , CNet

There is a common misconception here. When on Wi-Fi/UMA, using packet services, all the traffic goes through the EDGE/GRPS engine on the phone and in the network. So for now it looks like all packet data traffic goes through EDGE. It doesn’t, and with faster phones it will become clear this is a broadband experience.

"One benefit, which I didn't expect, was that calls made over Wi-Fi actually sounded clearer than those made using the cellular network…. The hype over the iPhone certainly drowned out T-Mobile's launch of HotSpot@Home, which was too bad. T-Mobile's new service is a revolutionary in its scope. ,

Calls sound clearer because they get onto the wired network faster, meaning less packet loss. I also believe is it “revolutionary in it’s scope.”

"[The two phones] sound terrific; over Wi-Fi, in fact, they produce the best-sounding cell-phone calls you've ever made. But the screens are small and coarse, and the features limited…. T-Mobile has found a way to embrace and exploit [Wi-Fi] to everyone's benefit. The result is a smartly implemented, technologically polished, incredibly inexpensive way to make over your phone lifestyle. , The New York Times
"...the best-sounding cell-phone calls you've ever made." Now that's a quote!

"My tests with this wireless network and its companion mobile phone were so underwhelming — when it worked — that I'd suggest anyone with even the tiniest bit of tech savvy wait for something better." , The Chicago Tribune

"The switch from Wi-Fi mode to cell-phone mode mid call is so smooth, it's shocking that this technology really works. If my cell-phone coverage at home was terrible, I'd say sign me up! The limited selection of phones is a major drawback. I can't imagine going back to a boring phone like the Samsung I tested." , The Orange County Register

I’m not sure how Eric at the Trib and Tamara at the OC could have such different experiences. Perhaps Eric was under-whelmed for the same reason Tamara was 'shocked'. It just works. Frankly, I can see how both sides of the coin apply. The key (and frankly boring) advantage of HotSpot@Home is that nothing dramatic happens. Seamless mobility means calls just switches networks, it’s boring. That's UMA, it's boring because it works.

"The big beneficiaries of this service will be International travelers. You can carry the phone with you, say to Rome. The phone will connect to a Wi-Fi network, and allow you to call home as if you were calling locally. The bad news is that if you have to call someone in Rome, then it becomes an international call." , GigaOm

Here’s another ‘it’s so good it’s bad’ comment. Yes, when you’re in Rome with a US phone and you need to call someone in Rome, it’s an international call. But that’s how your mobile phone works today. So that’s the ‘bad news’. Of course the good news is anyone you call in the US is still a local call, and when someone calls you from the US you pay US local rates. I think it makes things better.

"The promise of WiFi phones are great — bypass the slow cell-phone networks when you are near a Wi-Fi hotspot. But the realities of wireless computer networking — with closed networks, firewalls, and other incompatibilities — make them hard enough to log onto with a laptop, never mind a phone." , Business 2.0

From this review, I’m not sure if Eric got a phone to trial. The service is called HotSpot “@Home”. It’s not for attaching to any and all random Wi-Fi access points in the world. It’s for your home network. From the reviews above, apparently it is pretty easy to log in with a phone, let alone a laptop.

"I've been using T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home from Poland this week and I can honestly say that the service is a lifesaver if you're a frequent pond-hopper." , CrunchGear

Excellent news. T-Mobile did a great job keeping the service simple, unlimited calls over any Wi-Fi from anywhere in the world for just $10/month. No wonder the comments are good.