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.