Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Nokia, Motorola Show Cellular-VoIP Phones

By LAURENCE FROST AP Business Writer

BARCELONA, Spain Feb 15, 2006 (AP)— "Call me back on the landline" may soon sound like a quaint, turn-of-the-century instruction to the ears of many mobile phone users.
Nokia Corp. and Motorola Inc., the world's biggest branded handset makers, both unveiled phones at a tradeshow here this week that switch between cellular coverage outdoors and cheap wireless Internet calling inside all on a single phone number.


The new hardware is a response to growing demand. Mobile networks, aware that they can't beat Internet call operators like Skype for cheap indoor coverage, are itching to join them.
BT Group PLC already has. In September, the British telecom began shipping Motorola handsets to the first customers of its BT Fusion service, the first in the world to allow users to switch in mid-call between cellular and Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP delivered via a Bluetooth wireless connection at home.


The new Nokia 6136 and Motorola A910 handsets introduced at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona can connect to the Internet via WiFi, rather than Bluetooth, to make cut-price calls from the home, office or public hotspot. A handful of similar phones have been announced by smaller manufacturers in recent months.

"Then you walk out of the door and the call is seamlessly handed off to the cellular network," said Nokia Executive Vice President Kai Oistamo. "There are no dropped calls it's like moving from one cell to another one in a cellular network today."

Other mobile operators have waited for the WiFi phones before adopting the technology that enables the mid-call switching between broadband and cellular networks, called Unlicensed Mobile Access.

France Telecom SA will be its first customer for Nokia's UMA phone, to be sold under the French operator's Orange brand to customers of its LiveBox a phone, TV and Internet hub marketed in France, Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland and Belgium.

Several other operators have announced trials or launches of UMA products.

The move into "converged" cellular and VoIP services is a big step for the mobile industry, which often sees the Internet as a threat to future revenues from services it has spent years and billions developing.

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