Optical/IP Networks

T-Mobile: UMA 'Round the Corner?

It's already been a big week for cellular network upgrades in the U.S., and now analysts say that T-Mobile US Inc. could soon be ready to join the fun by rolling out fixed/mobile convergence services in the fall.

Third-ranked operator Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) said on Tuesday it will launch a mobile WiMax network due to cover millions of subscribers by the end of 2008. (See Sprint Goes WiMax.) Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless , the second largest operator, laid out its concept of Advanced-IMS -- an upgrade to the fixed/mobile convergence standard that the carrier reckons will allow it to support IPTV, video, and multimedia services over wireless networks via an IP Multimedia Subsystem core.

It seems, however, that the smallest of the Big 4 U.S. cellular operators might be the first to enable users to jump between cellular and WiFi networks on their mobile phones. T-Mobile could have FMC services that use the unlicensed mobile access (UMA) specification ready as early as the fall, according to Roger Entner, VP of Wireless Telecoms at analyst firm Ovum Ltd.

"They have basically finished the upgrades to their APs, they're waiting for the handsets," Entner tells Unstrung. "They could launch in the Fall."

"It's clear that T-Mobile US is gearing up for a launch soon," agrees Steve Shaw, director of marketing at UMA pioneer Kineto Wireless Inc. , in an email.

The carrier itself isn't giving any specifics yet but confirms its interest in the technology. "T-Mobile is interested in the replacement or displacement of landline minutes," a spokesperson writes in an email reply to questions. "We believe the future will be about leveraging diverse forms of radio access technology for our customers and Unlicensed Mobile Access, we think, is one of the technologies that will help us continue to deliver on that promise."

T-Mobile's network of public access WiFi hotspots may actually give it an advantage over other carriers in this instance. T-Mobile says it now has 7,836 locations in the U.S. Unlike many of its cellular rivals, the operator largely owns its WiFi network, rather than relying on partnership deals. This may make upgrades like FMC easier for the operator to install.

UMA convergence technology is popular with many operators and network vendors because it allows carriers to maintain central control over calls passed between WiFi and cellular networks. Opinions are mixed, however, on how useful the technology will be for enterprise users. (See UMA : Next Year's Model? and DiVitas Grabs VC Cash.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

solve_the_problem 12/5/2012 | 3:44:35 AM
re: T-Mobile: UMA 'Round the Corner?

The era of "WiFi where you can, cellular where you must" has begun
joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:44:33 AM
re: T-Mobile: UMA 'Round the Corner? Maybe, I'm sure there will be some bumps in the road before it all works 100% though.
solve_the_problem 12/5/2012 | 3:44:32 AM
re: T-Mobile: UMA 'Round the Corner? No question it will take some time...but the current mobile approach is not without bumps either...my mobile phone doesn't work at all in my house.
joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:44:31 AM
re: T-Mobile: UMA 'Round the Corner? True enough. Another point, I think I want more security on WiFi VOIP -- simply because more people seem to know how to hack into WiFi than they do cellular.
techgnochhi 12/5/2012 | 3:44:29 AM
re: T-Mobile: UMA 'Round the Corner? I dont't agree that this era has begun at all.

What WiFi and WiMesh proponents keep missing is that 3G mobile(what solve_the_problem calls cellular) is in controlled spectrum, whereas WiFi/Mesh is not. Ever been at an airport lounge with 3 carriers' WiFi access points? Try finding a SNR worth a salt.

Furthermore, the differences in infrastructure and ubiquity are staggering. With a major carrier just having commited multibillion dollars to 4G (by design, a "cellular" technology) and others continuing to invest billions in HSDPA and EVDO evolution, i think the fact is the era of ubiquitous 3G/4G cellular coverage is around the corner.

I continue to live according to the antithesis to the comment. I look for WiFi as the last resort, only to plunk down fees for one hour of WiFi that scale to 10-15% of my mobile data access cellular plan. And if I paid TMO their $25 for a monthly access plan, I'd spend more time at Starbucks than I care to ;-)

solve_the_problem 12/5/2012 | 3:44:22 AM
re: T-Mobile: UMA 'Round the Corner? Hey, I admit, you're philosophy is good for the GDP.

But I think there is an economics 101 question here. WiFi for example is cheap, standards-based, pervasive, high bandwidth and secure. Why spend billions of dollars building an overlay to that? It can be fixed for much less.

I take it your not responsible for any operator P&L.

Solve the problem (without spending billions)
solve_the_problem 12/5/2012 | 3:44:22 AM
re: T-Mobile: UMA 'Round the Corner? Agree on the security...that's why initial dual-mode services like UMA use IPSec encryption from the device to the network.
IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 3:44:22 AM
re: T-Mobile: UMA 'Round the Corner? Seems we have an abundance of connectivity. Sitting here at my desk I have way more than I can possibly use: Ethernet; WiFi laptop, HSPA Card, 3G Card, WiFi/GSM phone, 3G/GSM phone. Result, huh.

Also just had a call from the PR guy for the new T-Mobile Vario II (Windows Mobile, Qwerty, Slider). It has HSPA, WiFi, and 3G/GSM GĒō should do the trick, no?

I asked for test unit. Will report back.
techgnochhi 12/5/2012 | 3:43:51 AM
re: T-Mobile: UMA 'Round the Corner? i am not responsible for an operator's P&L, but I think the P&L of VzW is just fine. I cite them as an example as someone who has high stakes in ubiquitous (3G) technology and virtually NO stake in WiFi. After all, what good is a $30m WiFi network in uncontrolled spectrum (i.e. un-guaranteeable SL), which eventually translates to very little revenue compared to a $2b network with very controllable SL that generates steady income stream?

But then again, i am not total expert in WiFi/Mesh and don't know what physics-defying next trick could make WiFi avoid all that shared spectrum trouble ;-)
IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 3:42:12 AM
re: T-Mobile: UMA 'Round the Corner? This is a good clip about 3G and mobile broadband from Newsnight on the BBC:


It talks a bit about multi-radio terminals, convergence, 3G, WiFi, and WiMax.

Newsnight is a high-brow, late-night, current affairs show from the UK.

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