Light Reading

Taqua Acquires Kineto for VoWiFi Push

Sarah Thomas
9/4/2014
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Taqua and Kineto Wireless, partners in powering voice-over-WiFi (VoWiFi) for Sprint, are now one and the same, as Taqua confirmed Wednesday it has acquired the WiFi vendor.

In the Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) deployment, its first as a team, Kineto Wireless Inc. 's Smart WiFi Android client powers WiFi calling over a user's home or office network by tapping into Taqua LLC 's virtual mobile core to determine the strongest signal and connect to either the WiFi or cellular network. Kineto, now Taqua, CMO Ken Kolderup says it made sense for the companies to go from partners to an acquisition given the complementary nature of their technologies. (See Taqua Lets Mobile Users Talk Over WiFi and Sprint Selects Kineto for Wi-Fi Calling.)

In fact, since the Sprint win was formally announced in February, it has racked up several dozen more wireless operator customers -- two of which it plans to announce on Monday, who were asking the companies to combine, Kolderup says.

"We're working together well," he adds. "We have no overlap in product or organization and were already working together in development, sales and business development."

Kineto tackles the technology from the smartphone side of things through partnerships with all the Android device makers to run calls over WiFi and seamlessly transition between it and cellular. It is behind T-Mobile US Inc. 's VoWiFi service, which it has been offering since 2007, although T-Mobile -- like Sprint -- chooses not to enable the handoff feature. (See Kineto Beefs Up WiFi Calling Features and Taqua Extends VoWiFi to UMTS.)

Kineto and Taqua also hold important VoWiFi patents that they were able to combine, along with their respective employees. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it officially closed two weeks ago leaving all 100 employees in place, save Kineto CEO Jeff Brown and CFO Martin Hernandez who both left the company. The combined company has moved into Taqua's headquarters in Richardson, Texas.

Kineto had been on the scene since 2001, raising $45.4 million in 10 rounds of funding from six investors, including venture capitalists and Motorola Solutions. The well-funded company has relationships with nearly every Android handset maker and an extensive operator customer roster, making this more of a merger of technologies than a big company gobbling up a weaker player. Taqua, which has been around since 1998, has only raised $20 million in one round from six venture capitalists, but it has its hands in multiple parts of the mobile value chain, also including small cells, backhaul and voice-over-LTE.


Want to know more about WiFi advancements? Check out our dedicated carrier WiFi content channel here on Light Reading.


Wireless operators are starting to dip their toes into WiFi calling, but you can bet the market is going to take off much more quickly moving forward. Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has included support for WiFi calling in iOS8 via a homegrown proprietary method, removing the one barrier holding operators back, according to Kolderup. Now that all Androids and iOS devices are covered, he expects a domino effect of launches to occur. (See T-Mobile Jazzed With WiFi Calling on New Apple iOS.)

That's including cable companies, too, who have increasingly been building out their WiFi footprints as well. Kolderup says they are in talks with several MSOs, as well as alternative service providers and MVNOs, all looking for ways to make the most of existing WiFi footprints.

"We're a one-stop shop now to do [VoWiFi]," adds Frederick Reynolds, Taqua's VP of marketing. "For a large CLEC, MVNO or operator, they can turn to Taqua and have the client perspective on all Androids and a core that works with standards-based WiFi calling clients like Apple’s iOS 8."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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WillieFDiaz
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WillieFDiaz,
User Rank: Light Beer
9/24/2014 | 3:15:29 AM
Re: WiFi's calling
Lets be honest here. While VoWiFi has been around for years, and T-Mobile has captitalized on it with roaming, international calling and offering service in areas it couldn't get towers to cover, it still has a major issue with hand-off. UMA was flawless, but only on BlackBerry - surprisingly, T-Mobile chose NOT to carry this over to Android (as we know it can handoff fine) likely because billing issues and people not fully understanding the costs of WiFi-Carrier-WiFi calls. Rate plans have changed, add-on options for free calls have changed, so now we are looking at a bit of a boom.

Here is where things get sticky. Customers of VoWiFi have to understand...

1. Locked or Secured WiFi, or Authentication Required WiFi are still a problem. While WiFi is almost all over now, 99% of them are locked down, or require connecting, logging in and opening a browser to authenticate. This is tedious, and often has mistakes, leaving the user to think they may be connected, when in fact, they are not. Missed calls and texts is the big issue here.

2. WiFi, while all over, still is almost no where you will need it. On the bus, on a train, sometimes even on the street and in a park, you are unlikely to find one that is unsecured that you can piggy back onto. The quality, if you do find one, is really bad, as everyone else knows it is unsecured and logged into it as well. Aside from this, WiFi never was designed or managed in recent updates and standards to perform soft handoff. It is a hard handoff, drops the signal, reconnects. Leaving the data, stranded, and dropped as well.

3. LTE is still too new to be reliable. WiFi is too congested to be reliable. Combined, you need one to really back up the other, but at the same time, the consumer experience in the short run, may be a viable solution, as it has been for the last 8 years for T-Mobile, but in the long term, it needs to evolve. This is the FIRST evolution of VoWiFi in that time. In fact, the transition from LTE to WiFi is awesome for carriers - lowers the cost of carrying the call, the spectum efficiency jumps up majorly, and the user experience for those who are on the network and not WiFi should be much better with the off loaded traffic, but at the cost for the consumer, who is now paying more for both LTE on the device, and WiFi at home or the work place. Keep in mind, T-Mobile, the major pusher of VoWiFi, used to own and operate their own WiFi HotSpot network, which now is defunct. In order for carriers to capitalize and offer seamless, ubiquitous, and trusted service, AT&T and T-Mobile need to really push their WiFi networks back to the levels of a data network currently is in LTE. Deploy deploy deploy!! And let the data usage, voice, and texts, all be inclusive, not only that, allow calls and messages, and data to seamlessly hand off from one WiFi network to another, not just VoLTE to WiFi and back. Rely more on WiFi than the network is the goal.

 

Thats just my thoughts.
mhhf1ve
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mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/4/2014 | 7:01:47 PM
Re: WiFi's calling
I saw that FreedomPop offers a free voice app... but I haven't checked it out to see if it's VoWiFi or just some Skype-like kludge to get voice over IP.
SReedy
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SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
9/4/2014 | 12:31:58 PM
WiFi's calling
I definitely agree that VoWiFi is going to take off, especially with the iPhone supporting it. Taqua + Kineto is a strong proposition and their competitor pool is fairly limited right now, but I think we'll see a lot more jump in. Genband, for one, is already announcing support for WiFi calling in its revived mobile push: http://www.lightreading.com/services/unified-communication/genband-builds-out-its-mobile-strategy/d/d-id/710589
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