The shape of converged Wi-Fi / cellular phone services has become a little clearer with announcements from Kineto Wireless.
Kineto has announced two deals, that should make services based on the UMA (unlicensed mobile access) convergence technology more attractive than early UMA efforts, such as the Fusion product which BT rushed to market in an early form last year as BT Fusion.
UMA will allow phones to make calls over the cellular network, as well as over local Wi-Fi links (saving money for the consumer and/or the operator). Kineto makes the underlying software for the services, which are seen as promoting the mobile operators' version of convergence.
A deal between Kineto and Texas Instruments means that future phones based on TI's popular OMAP platform will be "UMA-ready", so operators selling a UMA service will be able to offer consumers a greater choice of handsets than current services, and a deal with hotspot aggregator Boingo will make it easier to connect to public hotspots, to use a UMA service for cheap calling from abroad, for example.
The Boingo deal will allow handsets running Windows Mobile 5 to connect at Boingo hotspots and run IM, voice, data and other services. An agent on the handset will connect to the wireless service, without the complication of entering access codes, which can be troublesome on handheld devices.
"People tend to view UMA as delivering on improved wireless coverage and economics in the home," said Peter Jarich, principal analyst with Current Analysis. This deal is more than that he added.
"Boingo brings access to the largest aggregated public network of Wi-Fi hotspots, which is highly desirable for operators looking to expand UMA service delivery," said Ken Kolderup, vice president of marketing for Kineto Wireless.
BT's current UMA product, Fusion cannot be used at public hotspots, as it connects to a home node using Bluetooth, not Wi-Fi. When the Wi-Fi version arrives later this year, BT has promised connectivity at public hotspots, but only its own OpenZone nodes.