So you can have VoWLAN on any internet accessible device, including a laptop, PDA or a cell phone. A cell phone that supports VoWLAN can be called a hybrid or a Wi-Fi phone. VoWLAN and 3G have similarities, but VoWLAN uses a wireless internet network (typically 802.11) rather than a cell phone network.
Why is VoWLAN good?
Wi-Fi-enabled cell phones bring together cellular and landline phone systems and allows consumers to take advantage of the best each has to offer. For instance, you could start a call on your office using a Wi-Fi network, switch to a cell phone network as you go outside the office building, then conclude the call on a home wireless network and all this with no interruptions. A VoWLAN service will automatically sniff out and switch to a Wi-Fi network and switching to a Wi-Fi network will result in much better call quality. A VoWLAN connection is also faster and speeds up Internet surfing on on your phone (Cell phone 500kbps (kilobits per second) compare with wireless LAN with speeds up to 54mbps (megabits per second).
The calls should also be cheaper, but this is actaully something that still should be read “should be cheaper". According to Olli-Pekka Lintula, director of Nokia´s strategic marketing at the technology platforms division, it’s still questionable whether using VoWLAN will actually be much cheaper. A hindrance for VoWLAN calls today is also is the lack of a charging method. “It is not clear what earning model for mobile operators would be with cellular VoIP, ” says IDC’s Pim Bilderbeek. According to Bilderbeek there is also talk about fixed line operators being the ones that would bring cellular VoIP phones to the market.
If we have the technique what are we waiting for? The Wi-Fi phones and here is were the hardware vendors and Nokia come in. Wi-Fi phones is nothing new and testing has been done for several years now, but the early versions of Wi-Fi phones failed miserably because of the enormous drain on the batteries which must support two chipsets rather than one. These problems have been fixed (?) and some 15 Wi-Fi phones are predicted to hit the market in 2006. Most of the handsets will be expensive and marketed primarily toward business customers, at least for now. As an example, HP's 6315 iPaq, which switches between traditional cellular and Wi-Fi networks, costs $500 - 600.
Nokia has announced that it will launch its first Wi-Fi phones for consumers in first half of 2006. They plan to start selling Wi-Fi phones already this year for businesses. Motorola has said its hybrid phone will be used primarily by businesses and have chose to use the 802.11a Wi-Fi standard, which is found almost exclusively in offices, rather than the more widely used 802.11b or 802.11g standards. Motorola is also expected to include a phone loaded with Skype.
As you can imagine VoWLAN and hybrid phones bring new threats and also opportunities to wireless carriers and traditional landline phone service providers. carriers could lose some revenue if Wi-Fi phones will be as popular as Nokia predicts (100 million wi-fi enabled cell phones globally by 2009). Some see the new Wi-Fi phones as an opportunity to cement the cell phone as a true replacement for traditional wired phones.
We, the consumers should win. But as long as the phones cost some 500 $, wireless broadband between $40 and $80 / month, and unlimited access to a nationwide Wi-Fi hot-spot network would add haltf of that a month, we are not the winners.
Nicolas Fogelholm writes for several online publications and has his own web sites and blogs. Nokia Info