Hybrid mobile phones – devices that combine WiFi with traditional wide area networking features like voice and data access are one of the big trends for 2006, as I wrote as much in my Business 2.0 story. Using a mix of technologies like IMS and UMA, wireless carriers want to provide customers the ability to switch between cellular and wifi-based-VoIP networks. In order to do that, the carriers need hybrid cellphones, and many hardware vendors are working on such devices.
Nokia is all set to launch its first VoWLANs phones in first half of 2006. Nokia plans to start selling VoWLAN phones already this year for businesses. And the first dual mode consumer model will hit markets in the first half of 2006 according to Olli-Pekka Lintula, director of strategic marketing at the technology platforms division. BT, TeliaSonera and a bunch of other carriers are already experimenting with such services. TeliaSonera expects a commercial launch next year. “Nokia forecasts that there will be just over 100 million wi-fi enabled phones globally by 2009, up from a few million this year,” this report says.