Friday, June 06, 2008

Softmobile client from Gemalto

A UMA-enabled softmobile client is an application which has been on the drawing board for some time. There has been interest, but it’s been slow in coming.

For those who don’t know, the UMA-enabled softmobile client is a mobile telephony interface application which runs on a laptop and connects to the mobile core network via UMA.

The application is ideal for operators to offer their subscribers another way to use their services, especially when traveling outside the home country. Typically when I travel to Europe, I connect my laptop at the hotel and fire up Skype. But if I were to have a softmobile client from my GSM provider T-Mobile, I could use it instead.

Back at MWC 08, technology supplier Vitendo announced they had developed a UMA-based soft mobile. In addition, Gemalto announced that Orange has selected their UpTEQ Smart Dongle. But the announcement said nothing about UMA.

Now on their web site, the UpTeq Smart Dongle lists support for UMA.

This week, Orange UK announced plans to ratchet up their services and alluded to, among other things, a “…new ‘totally connected’ product line – including laptops, to build on fixed and mobile broadband capabilities”

We’ll have to keep an eye out to see if Orange UK becomes the launch pad for the softmobile application.


Ticrabe said...

Thank you for this interesting post, Steve.

Indeed, this dongle seems to be an innovative approach on the "unfortunate" convergence landscape, focused on Dual mode voice devices during these last two years.

However, in terms of devices, what's your thinking about this dongle Market positionning in comparison with the Voice 2.0 trend ?

In other words, if you have the connected Web as a platform available for any devices (PC, Gaming console, etc.) , and you can bring additional communication features (i think that Big vendors like Alcatel Lucent or Ericsson are currently working on this topic) with Web mashups or via a Web browser, do you need this dongle anymore ?

Globally, i think that there is a major debate here to adress regarding the end user experience, between the vertical approach that this kind of product can promote and a more opened approach stigmatized by all the Web 2.0 initiatives...

What's your thinking about this last point, Steve?

Steve said...


Thanks for the comment.

This softmobile application, like all UMA-based applications, centers around the mobile operator as the service provider. In the case of telephony clients onlaptops, mobile operators have been effectively shut out until now.

Taking a step back, the power of IP is the ability for any service provider to deliver any service to a consumer/subscriber. On your laptop, it’s possible to download a Skype telephony client, a Vonage telephony client, and likely a client from your home telephony provider (if you still have a fixed line), along with thousands of little VoIP companies.

Now mobile operators can offer a soft-mobile client to participate in this opportunity. I think the use case is pretty specific: it is for consumers who typically use Skype or some other application to call back to their home country when traveling abroad. In the short term, I think this application will be ‘free’ from your mobile operator to try to keep people from using alternative applications on their mobiles.

But, as you point out, that’s the starting point. Note that Skype performs far more the just call-back services, including low global calling rates and presence. A mobile softclient, paired with a client on a handset, could be very powerful. I think mobile operators see the potential for tying this in with other mobile-centric services to provide a Voice 2.0 type service.

The trick for the mobile operator is to provide more value at a good price to keep consumers from straying. The softmobile client is just another tool.