Rise of the WiFi Phones

For past few weeks we have been hearing a lot about Wi-Fi + VoIP = New Handsets. Apart from the sporadic information on Vonage handsets, and some devices developed by Pulver gang, the information has been sketchy. Texas Instruments, which has 80 percent of the VoIP related silicon market is a good source for getting an overall picture of the market, so I chatted with them. Here is what they told me:

* Expect about a dozen different handsets by end of 2004.
* The handsets will resemble cell phones, and will feature three core chips, including TI’s OMAP processor based silicon that combines VoIP and WiFi functions.

“We are leveraging the OMAP chipset which we use for WiFi for the VoIP phones,” a TI spokesman said. The company was reticent about providing names of companies which are building these handsets. TI had bought a company called Telogy about four years ago and since then has developed “system on a chip” for VoIP/WiFi applications. The product has entered second generation. The footprint is smaller, the number of total chips required to build a handset has gone down from about six to one. This means, building the handsets is going to be cheap and easy.

TI has developed a spec design which it is selling to wholesale manufacturers in Asia who in turn are building devices for the usual suspects such as LinkSys. I am guessing that everyone from Belkin to D-Link to NetGear would be selling these handsets in coming months. I think the handset I am looking forward to is the one by Motorola that combines VoIP, WiFi with the more traditional GSM chips. An integrated Cell+VoIP phone, priceless. For everything else, there is Nokia.