Some users of Nokia’s combined Wi-Fi and cellular phones will soon be able to make voice calls that can roam between the two networks without dropping the call.
Cicero Networks announced on Thursday that it will make its client available on the S60 platform, the phone software based on the Symbian operating system that was developed by Nokia. The CiceroPhone handset software, combined with back-end technology that a service provider installs, supports the handoff of voice calls between Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
So far, just two operators have officially launched Cicero’s technology: Hello AS in Norway and Messagenet in Italy. Two alternative service providers in the United Kingdom have also launched services but haven’t publicized it yet, said Elaine Treacy, vice president of marketing for Cicero. She also said that about 30 additional operators, mainly in Europe, are trialing the technology. An Asian operator plans to launch service in a few weeks, she said.
The Cicero software was available previously only on Windows Mobile phones. The move to S60, which includes Nokia’s Eseries and some Nseries phones, was important, Cicero said. The devices from Nokia, the world’s number-one handset maker, are likely to reach a wide audience, offering more choice of phones for end users.
End users can get the software in several ways, based on how their service provider distributes it. Users can download the software to the phone, or the operator could sell phones with the software preloaded. The operator can charge for the software or distribute it for free, charging a monthly fee for the service.
While the wireless industry has discussed such converged offerings for some time now, only recently have handsets with Wi-Fi and cellular become available.
“That was always the challenge for everyone in our space to get the handset footprint out there,” said Ross Brennan, chief executive officer of Cicero. Nokia began selling phones with both Wi-Fi and cellular capabilities this year. Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications also sells a converged phone.
Broadband operators without mobile networks may be particularly interested in using Cicero’s technology to offer converged services because they can shift some phone calls off the cellular networks and onto their own networks through Wi-Fi connections. A broadband operator doesn’t need a partnership with a mobile operator to deliver a converged service using Cicero’s technology.
End users may be interested in such offerings because typically the cost of the call that uses the Wi-Fi network will be cheaper than the cost of a cellular call.
Cicero’s technology competes with Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA), a technology that cellular operators often prefer because it allows them to control and charge for all the calls, including those on Wi-Fi networks. T-Mobile USA recently launched a converged Wi-Fi and cellular service based on UMA in Seattle.
Cicero expects to release the software for the S60 platform Nov. 30.
-Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service (Dublin Bureau)
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