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5 Things to Know About UMA

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So T-Mobile is finally giving the converged WiFi/cellular technology called UMA, it’s long awaited day in the sun in the U.S. If you’re a T-Mobile customer that’s going to sign up for the [email protected] service, you likely don’t give a damn what is powering the handoff between cellular and WiFi, just that the system works.

But if you’re a GigaOM reader, well, then it’s possible you have raged in one of our comment-section debates about the technology that seems to polarize the telecom world. Here’s 5 points we collected from our writings on UMA:

1). UMA what? It’s an international standard that has been in development for years by a consortium of carriers and companies. It stands for Unlicensed Mobile Access and enables the handoff of calls between cellular (GSM only) and unlicensed wireless like WiFi.

2.) British Telecom was the first service to offer UMA over Bluetooth back in 2005. The service was a flop. TeliaSonera launched a WiFi-based UMA service called Home Free in August 2006.

3). UMA-based dual-mode services have been rolled out across the world by carriers such as Orange, British Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telia, Saunalahti, Cincinnati Bell and now T-Mobile

4). Orange of France has sold 275,000 handsets as of June 1, and is currently selling about 2,000/day, proving that customers actually want this kind of convenience. ABI Research predicts that there will be more than 300m dual mode phones sold in 2011

5). Nationwide UMA services like the one T-Mobile launched Wednesday need a UMA infrastructure that extends from the network to the software inside the dual mode handset. T-Mobile is using Alcatel Lucent for the network infrastructure.

Other equipment vendors with UMA on their menu include Nokia, Kineto Wireless, Motorola and Ericsson. Handset manufactures supporting UMA include Samsung, LG, HP, BenQ, SimTech and RIM (rumored.) (T-Mobile wouldn’t comment on how much the nationwide deployment cost.)

T-Mobile [email protected] is by no means a home run. T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom actually cancelled its fixed/mobile convergence service called T-One in Germany. The service was thought to be too expensive, and badly marketed.

7 Responses to “5 Things to Know About UMA”

  1. JP Pulido

    Does anyone know if there is a workaround to use an unlocked bb curve 8320 with AT&t to make a wifi phone call (with the same number), I guess like using the UMA technology?

  2. I was bullish on the handset vendors too, 2 years ago, but they’ve never delivered on user expectations – only on carrier expectations. Instead, they’ve delivered WiFi interfaces that aren’t connected to the earpiece – so if you use the WiFi to do Skype or other mobile VoIP service, all you get is speakerphone. Frustrating.

    UMA is all about using the WiFi for GSM voice. It’s not SIP (Vonage, Packet8, Intelliverse…).

    The iPhone’s WiFi interface is interesting for VoIP, but only if Apple has trumped AT&T’s objections. Oh, we won’t know until Apple creates a 3rd party software community. Let’s hope they have what it takes to standup.

    — P

  3. Jacomo

    Let the Market judge. AT&T and Verizon Wireless are scared to death of the concept and will fight deploying a comprable service as long as they can.
    Just wait and see how limiting the new AT&T and iPHONE WiFi capabilities are-people will be very frustrated by the slow Edge and find that they are going to be limited as to how and where they use their WiFi feature.
    Fixed Mobile Convergence will explode as more of the Smartphone/PDA vendors deliver on open WiFi Dual Phone systems and sell them direct (Unlocked) to users.
    When WiMAX (especially when 700Mhz comes available)and the newer 3-6 Radio Wireless Mesh Systems being deployed go live in major urban areas effectively offering users a bypass to the narrowband data services(512-768Kbps) Cell Carriers latest 3G offering the Cell Carriers will scramble to get a Fixed Mobile Convergence solution in the offerings, and focus on delivering higher quality voice services to compete with these new WiFi/WiMAX enabled VoiceIP services.They have one already tested and on hold.


  4. thomgee

    4) Orange might have sold 275 000 unik phones, but only 60% have chosen the UMA option. The option is offered for free for the first 2 months.