Tuesday, October 28, 2008

FMC market remains hot

In a recent report, Infonetics Research projects that FMC network equipment will grow 82% in 2008, and that the FMC phone market reached $7.6 billion in 2008.

“UMA continues to dominate the worldwide seamless FMC market,” said Infonetics principal analyst Stéphane Téral. “We expect all the phone and equipment segments in the niche FMC market to grow rapidly, with the economic downturn actually making T-Mobile USA’s offer more attractive to stretched consumer.”

At UMA Today, we completely agree.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Verizon preps femtocell service

According to reports from Engadget and Gadget.com, Verizon Wireless plans a launch of its own femtocell service based on Samsung’s Ubicell. We all know this is the same product used in Sprint’s Airave service.

For those following the Home Zone/FMC market, this amounts to an ‘I told you so’ moment. T-Mobile kicked things off. Next was Sprint, now Verizon. It looks like the FMC market in the US is really heating up. We told you home zones were hot.

This all stems from T-Mobile’s “Unlimited HotSpot Calling” (formerly known as ‘HotSpot@Home’), the Wi-Fi based Home Zone service T-Mobile launched about a year ago.

At the time, the UHC service provided something totally different than any of the other mobile operators in the US could deliver: a location specific ‘service zone’. T-Mobile could identify that subscribers were in their homes, and offer an unlimited, flat rate calling plan only when on Wi-Fi.

T-Mobile also got the added benefit of improving coverage in the home or office by using the Wi-Fi that already exists in those locations.

In response, Sprint launched Airave in September, 2008. It has been pointed out in this blog that while GSM operators have a choice of Wi-Fi or femto technology, CDMA-based operators are unfortunately limited to femtocells.

Without the ability to segment subscribers into specific locations, ATT and Verizon, launched unlimited MOBILE calling for $100. While all the majors eventually followed suit, this move immediately devalued the outdoor macro network, setting a ceiling on services at $100. Why not create a home zone offer, and limit unlimited calling to specific locations?

Yet Sprint and T-Mobile still had the upper hand, with unlimited calling when attached to Wi-Fi or the femtocell for just $10/month.

So now today we see Verizon realizing that a home zone service is different. In the US, it appears that a home zone service is now a competitive requirement.

AT&T, as a GSM operator, has a choice. They can do a femtocell service, or do Wi-Fi/UMA, or, I suppose, do nothing. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Friday, October 10, 2008

College students choose Wi-Fi over beer

The Wi-Fi Alliance, always looking to show how much consumers rely on un-tethered high-speed internet access, commissioned another survey on the subject.

In this latest addition, apparently 90% of college students surveyed said that Wi-Fi was as essential as classrooms and computers. If forced to choose, almost half would give up beer before Wi-Fi.

At UMA Today, we prefer the ‘and’ option versus an ‘or’ option.

UMA is Secure

Well, UMA is secure at least according to the recommendations of this consultancy. In an article on Unstrung, Global Secure Systems, a value-added IT security firm, reports that the WPA and WPA2 Wi-Fi security codes are no longer enough to protect wireless data.

By using a special purpose NVidia graphics cards, a Russian-based firm was able to accelerate cracking the WPA/WPA2 encryption by 10,000 percent. Wow.

In response, GSS now recommends its clients use a VPN on top of WPA/WPA2.

Hey… That’s how UMA already works.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Wi-Fi to 1 billion

Analyst firm In-stat recently updated its market forecast for Wi-Fi chips, projecting nearly a billion Wi-Fi enabled consumer devices by 2012. Most interesting for us at UMA Today is the claim that by 2011, cellular/Wi-Fi handsets will become the largest category of Wi-Fi enabled products.

No surprise here. Wi-Fi is now friendly for mobile operators. The benefits of improved coverage, mobile network offload, and home zone services are clear.

But it was the comment in the CNET article by Marguerite Reardon that hit the mark.

“Over the past few years, prices on Wi-Fi hardware have come way down. And the battery life for devices using Wi-Fi has improved dramatically, making it possible to embed Wi-Fi in handheld devices like cell phones.”

Poor battery life is a myth that has perpetuated too long in the dual-mode market. As with most technologies, market demand also demands innovation. UMA and Wi-Fi in handsets requires innovation over Wi-Fi embedded in a laptop. Several vendors have stepped up to make dramatic improvements in Wi-Fi, optimizing it for a handset environment.