Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hey GSMA: Got Voice?

Yesterday the GSMA announced a marketing program to promote and develop ‘always connected’ mobile broadband services in a wide range of consumer products.

While the momentum has been building for some time, the GSMA is looking to highlight the growing trend of HSPA devices (laptops, MIDs,…) which offer consumers a mobile broadband experience.

At UMA Today, our first thought was: Got Voice?

Giving consumers an ‘always connected’ mobile broadband experience is great… especially for VoIP providers like Skype and Vonage. These companies have traditionally been tethered to fixed broadband connections in the home or office.

Now mobile operators are providing them a high speed, low latency, always on mobile broadband network from which to deliver a mobile VoIP service.

While data services are certainly a booming growth area for mobile operators, this service amounts to a ‘dumb pipe’ approach. The fundamental revenue-generating application for the mobile operators, telephony, is conspicuously absent.

It’s clear why. Mobile operators don’t want to invest in a SIP/IMS core simply to provide their own VoIP service. The investment is too great, and the return is minimal.

What operators need is a way to leverage their existing voice service core (MSCs).

This is what UMA technology is all about: extending the mobile operator’s existing services over broadband.

There are several UMA-based softphone mobile clients available today. These products can easily be bundled with an HSPA service. Now when a user connects to the mobile broadband network, they can have the operators own a mobile VoIP application running on the laptop.

It could be that Orange is one of the first to recognize the opportunity.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Nanoradio Turns On UMA

Nanoradio is a Swedish-based fabless semiconductor supplier that has developed a unique WLAN chipset which features ultra-low power consumption, the smallest package (their claim) and ‘unique’ support for audio applications.

If you think this would be perfect for a UMA-enabled handset, apparently you’re not alone.

Today Nanoradio issued a press release stating its technology is in the world’s first 3G UMA handset. At first I thought they meant the Sony Ericsson G705u, but in fact they were talking about the Samsung P270, quietly announced in Orange’s press release about expanding Unik to support 3G devices.

In a follow-on article, the company refers to an as yet unannounced UMA device, the Samsung P250. Excellent.

The article also mentioned that the Nanoradio ‘…Wi-Fi solution doubles the standby and talktime...’ when in UMA. Not bad, considering UMA already outperforms cellular for some RIM devices.

From the company’s web site, Nanoradio suggests its WLAN chip uses just 6mW in a voice call, compared with 37mW for Bluetooth 1.2 and 50 mW for Bluetooth 2.0. Very impressive.

It’s clear that Nanoradio is dispelling the myths about Wi-Fi being power hungry. With ABI Research predicting more than 300 million dual-mode phones in the coming years, the future looks very bright.

Mobile Usage Skyrockets In the Home

While it’s no surprise to anyone, Informa has taken the important step of quantifying what we already know: the majority mobile data traffic will be generated in the home.

In research released by Informa a couple of months ago and re-introduced this week, Informa estimates that 40% of mobile data usage happens in the home today, growing to 58% of traffic in 2013. It’s much cheaper and easier to offload that traffic onto the user’s own broadband network via Wi-Fi or femtocell than carry it over the macro RAN.

The research also notes that mobile voice usage in the home should rise to 49% of a subscriber’s total minutes in 2013, up from 42% today. Add in the estimated 30% of calls which happen in the office, and a whooping 70% of mobile voice usage happens indoors.

With more than half of all voice and data traffic being generated indoors, Wi-Fi or femto-based Home Zone services should be mandatory from operators in the near future.

Home zones do it all:

  • Offload the macro network
  • Backhaul voice/data traffic over the internet
  • Create ‘home zone’ specific voice/data services and applications

Monday, September 22, 2008

NEC Turns Up Femtocells

Two announcements today from NEC in the femto market.

First, the company announced it received an order from Softbank in Japan for it’s IMS-based femtocell system. The system does require an IMS infrastructure, which can be troublesome for many existing mobile operators. Softbank’s goal is to be commercial in January 2009.

I believe this is the first commercial announcement/award for 3G femtocells.

Second, NEC made a strategic investment in Kineto Wireless, it’s supplier for RAN gateway-based femtocell solutions. The undisclosed investment was NEC’s first in the femtocell market.

With a win in the IMS approach and an investment in the RAN gateway approach, it appears that NEC is well positioned in the femtocell market moving forward.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Orange Wins... Again

Congratulations, Orange! Its Unik services was the winner of the “Fixed Mobile Convergence” award at this week’s Global Telecom Business Innovation Awards ceremony in London.

RIM Flips with New UMA-enabled Pearl

Yes, the new RIM Blackberry Pearl (8220) is the first flip phone for the company, and continues their tradition of UMA and Wi-Fi.

The US market is famously fickled for flip phones. RIM is addressing the need.

For those of us who weren’t there, RIM co-CEO and friend of UMA Today Jim Balsillie had a keynote presentation at yesterday’s CTIA event in San Francisco. The good people at Crackberry.com covered it with a ‘real time blog’.

The presentation shows RIM really stepping up the push into the consumer market. While RIM has 54% of the US smartphone market, consumers now account for 34% of RIM’s customer base. There was a slide on the ‘four screens’, which oddly enough includes a reference to the fixed line home phone.

The list of consumer/entertainment features on the device is staggering:

-Email (of course)
-IM (MSN, Yahoo, Google, AIM, Lotus,…)
-Social networking (Facebook, myspace, quickr,…)
-Photo Sharing (flickr,...)
-Content relationships (MLB.com, NFL.com, …)
-Streaming audio (Slacker,...)
-Home media synch with iTunes, Windows Media
-Tivo controls and media playback

and the list goes on.

Below is a video clip from Crackberry.com introducing the Pearl. Very cool.

The phone will be exclusive to T-Mobile starting this fall. We can’t wait.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

3G UMA "...at the heart of our convergence strategy"

Today Orange announced the expansion of its UMA-based Unik service to include support for 3G devices and network services. In addition, the company announced two new UMA-enabled 3G handsets, industry firsts, from Sony Ericsson and Samsung.

Orange continues to innovate on its UMA service. By extending Unik to include 3G, Orange is able to complement its macro 3G network with Wi-Fi indoors. Wi-Fi can offload the macro network, deliver high speed mobile data rates, and overcome 3G coverage/performance issues when the subscriber is in the home or office.

With this announcement, Orange now effectively turns all the LiveBoxes in France into unlicensed femtocells. That’s an installed base of over 4 million units.

I think the quote from Mr. Penalvar, senior executive vice president of strategy, says it best: “…UMA is at the heart of our convergence strategy.”

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sony Ericsson's #1

Well, a slight grammatical play here, what I meant to say is that today Sony Ericsson announced its first UMA-enabled handset, and it looks like a winner.

Today Engadget covered the new ‘powerhouse’ G705u device. It supports a UMA, along with a full complement of traditional RAN radios including quad-band 2G, and UMTS/HSUPA 850/1900/2100. That’s right, it’s also one of the first UMA/3G devices on the market today. Sony Ericsson’s first, in two categories!

In addition, the phone comes with aGPS, an RSS reader, a full HTML browser and a 3.2 mega pixel camera with direct uploads to YouTube. Very cool.

The first roll-out is Orange in Europe, but a US version is in the works.

UMA Today can now say that the top handset vendors support UMA: Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, LG Electronics and RIM. Now about that HTC phone

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Wi-Fi Gets Roaming

A long awaited (at least from UMA Today’s perspective) Wi-Fi specification was finally ratified by the IEEE last week. The 802.11r specification lets Wi-Fi devices roam quickly between Wi-Fi access points within a network.

Officially known as ‘fast basic service set transition’, the concept behind 802.11r is to enable a device to establish access to and qualifications of a neighbor Wi-Fi access point before transitioning from the current AP.

For a dual-mode handset call, this capability is critical. Because UMA relies on an IPSec tunnel anchored on the handset, the phone must receive the same IP address from the new AP as it currently has from the current AP before it can roam. Without a constant IP address, the IPSec tunnel fails and the call transitions back to the macro RAN (not a tragedy, but a hassle).

The 802.11r spec has been in the works since 2005 and finally crossed the finish line. Look for it in devices and APs shortly.