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.