Tuesday, March 25, 2008

T-Mo gets the 8820... Finally

The Blackberry 8820, announced about 6 mos ago for AT&T, has finally been released for T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home service. All we can say is: FINALLY!

And in the category of 'what have you done for me lately', we ask "When do we get the UMA-enabled Pearl?"

Monday, March 24, 2008

Qualcomm Positions Wi-Fi and Femtocells

I recently uncovered a very interesting whitepaper on the Qualcomm site. Published in December, 2007 and titled “Femtocells and WLAN Complement 3G and Beyond”, the whitepaper approached the current Wi-Fi/Femto furor with an outlook similar to my own: the imperative is for in-building radios to provide service zones, and is less about which radio technology is used.

By using Wi-Fi or femtocells, operators have the ability to develop a ‘service zone’ where new, differentiated services can be delivered to subscribers.

The paper goes on to outline four reasons why an operator needs to use a technology like Wi-Fi and/or femtocell to complement a 3G deployment:

  • Indoor coverage – which can mean regular ‘coverage’, but now implies improving the data rate/throughput for packet services
  • Capacity gains – good old macro radio offload
  • Cost savings – specifically attributed to the use of broadband/IP for backhaul
  • New Services – specifically Home Zone services, or applications specific to a location.

These are all things that are common to the “Home Zone 2.0” strategy.

My only disagreement in the piece is the discussion about VCC. But this was written before the announcement that Qualcomm was adding UMA support to their dual-mode 3G platform.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

T-Mobile: 10 New UMA Handsets in 08

The recent article about T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home dual-mode service had another interesting fact. T-Mobile marketing vice president David Beigie said that the company will bring 10 new UMA-enabled dual-mode phones to market in 2008.

Today there are 47 handsets for sale right now on the T-Mobile site. Five are already "HotSpot @Home" capable, so this would bring T-Mobile to 15 devices.

By the end of 2008 we can expect about 30% of T-Mobile's portfolio to be UMA enabled.

Not bad.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fido fetches a DMH service with UMA

Information has been leaked about Fido, a mobile brand in for Rogers in Canada, regarding an upcoming dual-mode handset service based on UMA.

According to the post, the service, called UNO, will have two pricing options and feature the sleek Nokia 6301 and the brand new Motorola Z6w. The rumor is of a soft-launch on April 2.

As show, the Nokia 6301 retails for 50 CAD with three year commitment.

For those of you who continue to think "UMA phones are expensive", the 6300, the non-UMA version, is the same price. Eventually the market will realize there's really no premium to Wi-Fi in handsets.

Sagem my429x

Sagem Launches UMA-Based my429x Phone


Sagem quiety launched its second UMA-enabled dual-mode handset recently. The my429x is available to subscribers of Orange's unik service that is based on UMA. As Orange continues to drive the dual-mode handset market with its demand, Orange unik subscribers now have more than 12 dual-mode handsets from which to choose.

The Sagem my429x weighs 95 grams and measures 106X46X15 mm. It has the latest multimedia features and joins an ever-growing line-up of other UMA-enabled handsets.

This is Sagem's second UMA-enabled dual-mode handset. Its first, the my419x, recently won a UMA Innovation Award for best dual-mode handset, feature phone

Monday, March 17, 2008

T-Mobile takes 50%

T-Mobile, notoriously quiet about the HotSpot @Home service, is starting to talk about how successful the offer really is.

In an article out today, [Link update: click here] T-Mobile US marketing vice president David Beigie states that nearly half of the subscribers who sign up for the dual-mode handset service are new to T-Mobile. Frankly, that’s a stunning success in the competitive US mobile market.

Orange had originally stated that 15% of Unik subscribers were new to the company. But as the incumbent fixed and mobile provider in France, this makes sense.

As a competitive provider, and the fourth largest provider in the US, T-Mobile is always looking for ways to win new subscribers, and a 50% attraction rate is tremendous.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cinci Bell: Telecom Innovator

There's a good article in Forbes about John Cassidy, CEO of regional fixed/mobile/broadband provider Cincinnati Bell. The article calls Mr. Cassidy "the most honest man in telecom."

It also refers to Cincinnati Bell's dual-mode handset (DMH) service called "Home Run".

In talking about the service, the author makes an interesting comment:

"Wi-Fi will nick Cassidy's traditional businesses, but the technology is too logical to ignore."

I agree that "Wi-Fi is too logical to ignore", and wish more operators considered it the same way. However, Wi-Fi doesn't actually "...nick [Cincinnati Bell's] traditional business..."

An investor pitch from Orange dated December, 2007 (slide 20) highlights how Orange has seentheir dual-mode service actually increase the lifetime value of subscribers who take the service. Rather than 'nicking' the business, Wi-Fi is actually increasing the value of a subscriber to the operator.

Rumor mill: Sony/Ericsson phone close?

Several independent sources have been talking about new UMA-enabled handsets from Sony/Ericsson. There are rumors that the units are in test at different operators. Unfortunately, this typically means they are likely to be 3 to 6 months away from commercial availability.

Sony/Ericsson is the largest handset manufacturer without a UMA device. We can only assume that the pressure from operators offering dual-mode handset services has 'convinced' S/E to jump into the game.

All we can say is "Welcome, the more the merrier!"

Four Out of Five Agree: UMA for Femtocells

Before MWC, I wrote about the incredible amount of UMA-based femtocell news, calling it a ‘femto frenzy’ of activity.

Within the world of femtocells, there are a chosen few committed to the existing 3GPP UMA/GAN standard. All of the other systems/solutions are proprietary. The “UMA-enabled Femtocell” world consists of many key players:

- Solution provider NEC
- Solution provider Motorola
- Femtocell provider Ubiquisys
- Femtocell provider Motorola
- Femtocell provider Netgear

So, let’s count the number of announced operator femtocell trials and see where UMA is involved:

1. During MWC, pan-European mobile operator O2 announced they were conducting a femtocell trial with NEC.

2. Also during MWC, Scandinavian provider Telia announced a femtocell trial based with Motorola.

3. Then just this week, an article from Fierce Wireless editor Brian Dolan suggests that T-Mobile International will be trialing Ubiquisys femtocells with NEC.

4. Softbank in Japan has announced trials with nearly every supplier on the market, including Ubiquisys, NEC and Motorola.

5. The only other announced trial I’m aware of is Vodafone Group’s announcement to trial Alcatel/Lucent and Huawei, clearly not a UMA-based trial.

Unless I’m mistaken (which I’m sure you’ll to tell me if I am):

Four out of five femtocell trials include a UMA-based system.

This reminds me of the old Trident gum ad where “four out of five dentists agree…

I attribute this to a couple of reasons:

- It works. Novel but true. UMA has been commercially deployed for more than two years.

- Operators actually want a standard interface. As much as Alcatel/Lucent, Huawei, and even Nokia/Siemens are trying to push their own proprietary approaches, the operators have had enough. They want an open, public standard interface for femtocells.

- UMA does more than one thing. After deploying a femtocell service, a mobile operator may want to add a fixed line VoIP service (like T-Mobile US). The same UMA infrastructure supports that, or dual-mode phones, or softmobiles.

Next, let's see if we can get to 9 out of ten...

[UPDATE MARCH 20] Good posted on ThinkFemto about a similar topic. I have a bit more detail. For some reason, ThinkFemto decided to throw in a bunch of picocell wins that ip.Access got, but they aren't femtocells.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Apple vs Blackberry in the enterprise? RIM has the edge.

Last week Apple made noise about opening the iPhone up to developers to support more enterprise oriented applications.

UMA’s standard position on applications is “If they work over GSM, they’ll work better/faster/cheaper over Wi-Fi and UMA!” It’s a good (and easy) position to be in.

Given UMA technology is basically agnostic to applications running above it (even SIP), why would UMA Today weigh in on an enterprise applications battle between the Blackberry and Apple?

Frankly, it’s because UMA gives RIM an edge.

Let me explain.

These heavy duty devices are always struggling with power usage. One of the banes of ‘smart phones’ with big screens and lots of features is battery performance, and it’s here, deep inside these enterprise devices, that UMA gives RIM the edge.

Consider how UMA works:

When a UMA-enabled device moves within range of Wi-Fi, the handset establishes a direct IP tunnel to the mobile core network using the Wi-Fi radio. Once in place, all mobile services (voice, SMS, MMS, …) are tunneled to the phone over IP. Because the GSM/3G radio is no longer used, it is put into a hibernation mode. In effect, only one RAN radio is powered on concurrently with UMA. That’s pretty efficient.

Compare this with how an iPhone, or any non-UMA dual-mode phone (think Nokia E and N) works. When the iPhone moves into Wi-Fi coverage, the Wi-Fi radio powers on. But there is no connection from the Wi-Fi radio to the mobile core network. Therefore, for users to receive cellular services (ie 'a phone call'), the GSM radio must remain on, concurrently with the Wi-Fi radio.

That sucking sound you hear is the battery on the iPhone draining…

That’s not fair, it’s not specific to iPhones, it’s the same with any dual-mode E or N series from Nokia that doesn’t have UMA.

This is a fundament advantage over any non-UMA dual-mode handset. Any time you see or hear someone complaining about ‘Wi-Fi battery life’, you can be sure they are talking about a non-UMA device.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ono!?! Definitely Oh Yes!

Spanish quad-play operator Ono is the latest to launch a dual-mode handset service based on UMA technology. Ono’s service, called “io”, offers consumers the same rate on calls to fixed and mobile lines 24 hours a day.

From Wi-Fi, it is a rate of 0.0€/minute on calls to other Ono mobile or fixed lines, and just 0.11€/minute on calls to other Spanish operators.

Outside the home, it is still 0.0€/minute on calls to other Ono mobile or fixed lines, and a flat rate of 0.15€/minute on calls to fixed and mobile lines in Spain.

Currently Ono offers Samsung and Nokia products, with more phones in the works.

Ono is a quad-play competitive provider in Spain, offering mobile, fixed, broadband and television services.

Monday, March 03, 2008

VCC?!?! Still??? Really???

VCC, or voice call continuity, seems to still be hanging around in parts of the industry. I must say I continue to be shocked that anyone would even consider it.

First, it must be getting close to done, but for some baffling reason is not completed yet. I think VCC started back in 2005, the same as UMA. If you recall, UMA was actually ratified by the 3GPP in April 2005 (2G) and has since added 3G support, all in the same timeframe that VCC is still languishing.

My position has been and continues to be that VCC is for fixed operators. They have SIP core switches (a VCC requirement) and no direct connection to the mobile service core. I think dual-mode service for fixed operators is a tough sell for many reasons far beyond technology.

Of course, UMA is a 3GPP technology, therefore CDMA networks don’t have an equivalent approach. Some have suggested that these operators may opt for a dual-mode handset/VCC offer, but I think mobile operators in general are too smart to fall for the vendor community’s push on VCC.

VCC offers a different set of services to subscribers when on Wi-Fi than what’s available on the macro network. This is because the handset connects to the SIP core when on Wi-Fi, and to the MSC when on cellular. Different core networks support different services. It’s inconceivable to me that any mobile operator would attempt to roll out a service which didn’t work the same across the entire network.

Frankly the CDMA operators are simply going to do femtocells for their ‘home zone’ service offers. Witness Sprint and Airave. They must have a response to Wi-Fi-based home zone offers like T-Mobile’s HotSpot @Home, and femtocells are a viable alternative.

UMA is the only viable technology for dual-mode services. Period.

GAN Iu-Mode Stage 3 Complete

At the 3GPP meeting two weeks ago, the GAN/UMA working group ratified the Stage 3 requirements for Iu-mode support. It's done. Now... how to get the femtocell community to use an existing standard rather than creating something new from scratch...