Monday, June 02, 2008

Vodafone Station: Screaming for UMA

As you may have seen, Vodafone announced a new product called “Station”. The original announcement was a bit confusing, but now that the dust has settled, I think it’s becoming clear.

The Station, made by Huawei, is a broadband router/modem. It can use either the integrated ADSL2+ modem or HSPA (via an additional dongle/UBS) for backhaul on the WAN. On the LAN, the Station provides Wi-Fi.

The target is to provide Vodafone subscribers with a broadband WAN connection. The target audience is likely someone using the Voda HSPA network for laptop data access. When at home, the HSPA network may have in-building propagation issues and the throughput/data rate may be low. Enter the Station. Install the Station with your HSPA dongle/USB key near a window to get a strong HSPA signal from the macro network. Then the Station uses Wi-Fi to transmit that signal to the laptop when at home.

So what is the ADSL2+ modem for? Well presumably it is faster to use the fixed network. And while I’m just speculating, I’ll bet they don’t want people sitting in their homes streaming lots of data over the HSPA network. Therefore, to offload the macro network, it’s better to have users running over a fixed line DSL connection. So users can start with HSPA while their DSL line is being installed.

The last wacky part? The Station comes with an analog voice port (ATA). Apparently when using the HSPA dongle, the station provides voice services over via the circuit voice capabilities of HSPA. And given the dongle has a SIM, this is another phone number/service available.

What I don’t understand is when the user transfers to the fixed line DSL connection, what happens to the analog voice service? With no dongle, there’s no way to associate the Station with the Vodafone mobile core. Hummm…

So why is this screaming for UMA?

First, it’s providing Wi-Fi indoors, clearly idea for a dual-mode handset service, and when the service transitions to the ADSL network, even better. With UMA, Vodafone could have a real ‘home zone’ service.

Second, the ATA ports could simply run UMA for the terminal adaptor function. Now the ports would be live/available to the consumer when connected via HSPA and/or DSL. It wouldn’t matter.

As I was writing this, I found a comment on Om Malik’s blog from someone suggesting there was a big opportunity in Wireless WAN and Wireless LAN. But can they build a femtocell (3G LAN) that uses HSPA for the WAN connection? That seems like a lot of 3G in one box, but maybe it’s on the drawing board somewhere.


Dean Bubley said...


It's not clear to me at the moment whether the voice-over-ADSL component of this service will be associated with a fixed number, or linked into the Vodafone mobile core.

Bear in mind the general regulatory complexity of doing FMC in Italy and the fate of the original Telecom Italia dual-mode service.

Presumably Voda's Italian broadband VoIP strategy is also rather driven by its acquisition of Fastweb and Tiscali.

Maybe it reckons it can make more money by selling true quadplay (ie separate mobile & fixed phone services) rather than via single-numbered fixed-mobile substitution.


Stefano said...

Yes, the voice-over-adsl service is linked to a fixed number.
The Vodafone Station has an analog voice port to support that.

By the way, I updated my original post with pricing info.