Tuesday, February 27, 2007

If you missed it at 3GSM...

For a show with the noise and size of 3GSM, it's hard to get a handle on all things UMA. Here's a quick wrap up of a couple of the newest UMA enabled products from 3GSM:


Always a hot topic, there where three new announcements/units on display this year:

HP iPAQ 510 Voice Messenger

Announced by HP at the show, this is the industry’s first commercial UMA enabled Windows Mobile 6 smartphone. HP announced BT as the first customer for the handset.

BenQ E72

On display in the Kineto booth, this is a previously unannounced model from BenQ. In late Jan 07, BenQ announced they had licensed UMA technology for a dual-mode device. No information was provided about availability.


On display in the Sagem booth was a new UMA-enabled model. This has been rumored for some time and is clearly targeted for Orange. Scant details are available as there has still not been an official announcement from Sagem.


Still on the rumor mill is the UMA-enabled Blackberry, known as the 8800. There was a reported sighting in the nightlife of Barcelona, but still nothing confirmed.


Femtocells were a very hot topic at this year’s show. Kineto displayed units from UbiquiSys and picoChip. But with major RFPs on the way for products, look for more announcements on UMA-enabled Femtocell solutions shortly.

To the right is a photo of the new UbiquiSys product.

Test tools

A sure sign that UMA has reached the mainstream is when the device testing companies roll out the UMA/GAN conformance test platforms.

Aeroflex was one of the first with a public announcement and had the unit on display at the show.

Rohde & Schwartz had a unit on display at the show.

Setcom showed a product based on the Anritsu platform.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Telia talks UMA

Kenneth Karlberg, president of TeliaSonera, was interviewed by Martin Warick of Telecom TV at the 3GSM show. The whole discussion is on convergence. Kenneth gets to UMA in the fourth minute. For some reason, the video ends abruptly. It's still quite interesting.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mobile Roaming with UMA

With so many announcements at 3GSM, it’s hard to keep track of them all.

One little noticed announcement came from Boingo. The company launched a worldwide Wi-Fi service for mobile phones. For a flat rate of $7.95, subscribers can connect their Wi-Fi enabled handsets to any one of Boingo’s 35,000+ hotspots around the world.

Presumably this is targeted at people who carry the Linksys iPhone to provide Skype access at hotspots.

However, I think there’s another perspective here that is very interesting for mobile operators.

There is a lot of talk about international mobile roaming rates, and pressure abounds to lower the fees charged. UMA and Boingo can address this concern immediately.

First, some background. From a dual mode handset perspective, one challenge to using a mobile phone in hotspot-type Wi-Fi location is that most access points are designed for laptop users to log in, connect and pay for access. Yet mobile phones don’t have the capability to enter a credit card number or even render the landing page of the Wi-Fi network.

To overcome this problem, Boingo has developed an open-source version of their access manager. The Boingo client, running on a dual mode handset, can be configured to identify a foreign SSID, check if the AP is part of the Boingo network, then automatically supply the authentication credentials. Thus any of the 35k APs in the Boingo network can become a seamless extension of an operator’s Wi-Fi network.

For me, making a call with my US SIM when I was in Barcelona cost about $1/minute. With a UMA-enabled phone, technically I should be able to connect to any Wi-Fi AP and calls would be local and therefore billed at my normal per minute. But mobile operators like the roaming revenues, so most UMA service plans disable the use of Wi-Fi access outside the home country.

However, suppose my T-Mobile UMA service offered a special International package. So, for example, calls made from outside the US, over the Boingo hotspot network, are billed at a discount of $0.50/minute.

For the consumer, this is a 50% reduction in the cost, certainly enough to generate interest. For operators, that $0.50/minute is nearly all profit as the call connects over IP and the international operator’s GSM network is bypassed.

Seamless handover isn’t supported (the UNC isn’t connected to the local BSC), so there’s no problem with partial billing or handover billing.

It’s a win-win situation, operators continue to collect fat margins on international calls, and consumers actually get a cost savings on a per minute rate.

I think these guys at Boingo are on to something.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

3GSM and Femtocells

Recovery from 3GSM is well underway, but as I reflect on it, a hot topic of the show was femtocells. Nearly every operator wanted to hear the femtocell story and how UMA is the technology for integrating hundreds of thousands of devices into the mobile core.

The “lack of handsets” is considered to be the biggest downside to dual mode handset service and seems to be driving everyone to femtocells. Even with announcements for new devices from Sagem, HP and BenQ, the market wanted to hear how femtocells will deliver fixed-mobile substitution.

From a UMA perspective, dual mode handsets or femtocells are fine. Both drive the investment in the mobile network equipment. And once installed, operators can leverage the UNC for either dual mode handset service and/or femtocells.

All in all, femtocells are a win-win for UMA technology.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

64,000 and counting

Carrie Pawsey, analyst with Ovum, posted a note on their web site the other day. Orange’s Louis-Pierre Wenes, in an interview posted on Yahoo Multimedia France, stated that Orange has sold 64,000 handsets in the first two months of launch.

Wow, here we go. Orange is promoting unik with only two handsets and has managed to attract 64,000 subscribers in 60 days. That’s an excellent start.

As unik broadens it’s handset portfolio and consumers become more comfortable with the technology, I believe this will become an unqualified hit for Orange.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

UMA turns up the heat on VoIP services

It in a little covered but very insightful announcement, Orange in France announced “Unik Professional”, a version of it’s popular, consumer oriented UMA-based unik service. The professional version is targeted at small businesses.

The amazing thing about it is that for a flat €15/month, subscribers get UNLIMITED calls to ANY fixed lines in France, Europe and North America when connected over the unik/IP/UMA network. Unbelievable!

Now with your standard mobile phone (and phone number), unik subscribers can make unlimited fixed line calls over the unik network.

Certainly here in the US there have been some interesting announcements lately. A couple months back Skype announced unlimited Skype out to fixed lines in the US for $15 for an entire year. But it is “out”, so it’s not part of the regular calling pattern for most people.

Then AT&T announced Unity, offering unlimited calling between AT&T home & office fixed lines as well as mobile lines within the US.

But Orange’s offer, breaking outside the country and even outside it’s own continent is a HUGE step in driving fixed mobile substitution and making unik a compelling service offer.