Convergence Specs Emerge

A big-name cluster of carriers, infrastructure startups, and established vendors have just published a set of specifications for seamless roaming between GSM-based cellular and wireless LAN networks, which could start to appear in products next year.

The companies are working on converging the wireless technologies as means of reducing the cost of mobile calls and offering consumers and corporates new service options. Oh, and selling some new products probably wouldn't hurt too much either.

The group is calling its work the Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) specification. Members include Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), AT&T Wireless Services Inc. (NYSE: AWE), BT Group plc (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA), Cingular Wireless, LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY), Kineto Wireless Inc., Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), T-Mobile International AG, and others (see Industry Touts UMA Specs).

Unstrung spoke to John O'Connell, CEO of mobile-over-WLAN startup Kineto, about the progress of the UMA specification.

O'Connell was a little cagey about how the specification will work. But the UMA Website says that the specification enables seamless connections by "tunneling GSM/GPRS protocols through a broadband IP network and an unlicensed radio link [i.e., a wireless LAN network]."

This little chart from the site gives the, er, big picture:

Examining how Kineto's MOWLAN offerings work also gives some indication how the UMA might be implemented (see Kineto: No QOS Required?). The specification will involve software on the phone that makes handoffs between networks before transferring the voice call or data download, as well as input from the carriers and WLAN hardware manufacturers.

"We've demonstrated that you can do this without the calls dropping," says O'Connell. O'Connell says the carriers involved with the specification are already trialing the technology. In fact, BT delayed its own Bluephone wired/wireless convergence project to incorporate the UMA specifications.

All of the major mobile phone manufacturers are also working on combined cellular/WiFi models for next year, the CEO claims.

And this group is not the only alliance beavering away at converging WiFi and cellular networks. UMA group member Motorola has also been working with Avaya Inc. (NYSE: AV) and Proxim Corp. (Nasdaq: PROX) on similar technology for over a year now and also wants to standardize the work (see Trio Plots Roaming Accord).

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

lrmobile_Bubley 12/5/2012 | 1:18:23 AM
re: Convergence Specs Emerge I've been looking into UMA recently as well. Sounds interesting for residential users, but I get the impression it's not designed to dovetail neatly with PBXs/IP-PBXs in a business context.

One of the main motivations behind UMA seems to be to allow cellular carriers to get cheap indoor coverage & free backhaul, piggybacking on the user's own IP/broadband pipe & WiFi installation

Dean Bubley
Disruptive Analysis
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