Thursday, August 03, 2006

T-Mobile UMA Beta Program

Engadget has some insider information about T-Mobile's UMA program. UMA allows users to handover between the GSM network and a WiFi network. The beta program appears to include some sort of customized wireless router (with simplified encryption administration), but I assume commodity equipment (and possibly public hotspots, especially T-Mobile ones) would work just as well.

This is a smart move by T-Mobile. It embraces the risks that "free" WiFi VoIP pose to their business. The advantages to the user (over Skype on a PDA / smartphone for instance) are significant:

  1. A single point-of-contact number.
  2. Seamless roaming in and out of the house or hotspot.
  3. Simple administration: simpler than buying Skype-in and Skype-out seperately and distributing an extra set of numbers to your contacts with special instructions.

The question is how do you charge for it: flat rate, per call, per second, etc... If you can get that right, you could mitigate the risk to revenue posed by WiFi VoIP and also get the customers themselves to fix local cover holes (and possibly those of their immediate neighbours).

A fascinating challenge to the traditional model of cellular planning.


Anonymous said...

So I guess you've seen this:

Rupert said...

Indeed. My company has been tracking this very closely.

What is needed now (well, by 2007Q4) is UMA for WiMAX. I think the specification of UMA supports this, but it will be interesting to see how the manufacturers respond.