Cellular-VoIP phones Launched

16 Feb ’06

Nokia and Motorola have announced their cellular-VoIP phones – phones that are designed to handoff (even mid-call) to VoIP when within range of Wifi:

Nokia Corp. and Motorola Inc., the world’s biggest branded handset makers, both unveiled phones this week that switch between cellular coverage outdoors and cheap wireless Internet calls inside — all on a single phone number.

The new hardware is a response to growing demand. Mobile networks, aware that they can’t beat Internet call operators like Skype for cheap indoor coverage, are itching to join them.

BT Group PLC already has. In September, the British telecom began shipping Motorola handsets to the first customers of its BT Fusion service, the first in the world to allow users to switch in mid-call between cellular and Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP — delivered via a Bluetooth connection at home.

The new Nokia 6136 and Motorola A910 handsets, like a handful of others announced by smaller manufacturers in recent months, can connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi, rather than Bluetooth, to make cut-price calls from the home, office or public hotspot.

“Then you walk out of the door and the call is seamlessly handed off to the cellular network,” said Nokia vice-president Kai Oistamo. “There are no dropped calls — it’s like moving from one cell to another one in a cellular network today.”

It’s a cool development, but I can’t help but wonder how much more popular a generic and widely-available integration with the home POTS would be. There are solutions for this, but they aren’t widely available because of limited integration with handsets; one needs special home POTS hardware and a particular type of cel handset. All of this ought to be universal. In any event, at least the handsets manufacturers and mobile operators are starting to move in that direction.

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