Wi-Fi Alliance Talks Phones

By Eric Griffith

February 12, 2007

92 and counting -- that's the number of VoIP handets, the majority of them converged with cellular, that are Wi-Fi certified.

Can't find a Wi-Fi-based VoIP phone? Don't blame the Wi-Fi Alliance. The industry group, mainly known for testing interoperability between products using 802.11 technology, is announcing today at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, Spain that 92 Wi-Fi phones have been certified since 2004.

Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Alliance, breaks down the number to 10 single-mode (Wi-Fi only) phones, those generally used in the enterprise or vertical markets, and 82 dual-mode, supporting both Wi-Fi and a cellular technology. (However, to be fair, he points out that the same phone may have been tested under many different SKUs used in different parts of the world).

"A lot of these were tested for straight-up interoperability," Hanzlik told Wi-Fi Planet. "Some in the last six months have had added tests for newer certifications such as our Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) Power Save."

Among the vendors they list as having Wi-Fi Certified handsets of some sort are Acer, BenQ, Fujitsu-Siemens, HP, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Samsung, Sanyo, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba. A full list of all Wi-Fi certified products is on the Alliance Web site. The Alliance announcement cites an ABI Research forecast that 325 million fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) phones and 15 million single-mode Wi-Fi phones will be shipped by 2011.

The Alliance has been working with CTIA - The Wireless Association since 2005 to bring the Alliance's PC-centric testing to mobile devices. The groups launched a new test program together in September 2006. Last year, the 3,000th product the Alliance certified was a Wi-Fi/cellular phone, the Motorola A910.

"I'd categorize the work with CTIA as giving carriers the information they were looking for," says Hanzlik. "They expressed to us a desire to have a consistent test of basic RF parameters used in a dual-mode handset -- transmit power, receive sensitivity, and basic issues of having radios on top of each other. These tests are about giving the purchasers of those phones a consistent way to compare products with common attributes. Carriers then know the specifications are consistent with expectations."

For now, the testing that the Alliance and CTIA have for F/MC phones relates to interoperability ("the sweet spot for us," says Hanzlik) and radio frequency (RF) performance. The two groups shared some common testing labs to help facilitate that. Eventually, he believes they'll start testing voice performance and hand-off between different networks. The Alliance has an internal working group focusing on hand-off.

"We're working with other organizations like the FMC Alliance to match requirements and match expectations for success," says Hanzlik.

At least seven countries have F/MC trials going on right now. "It's exciting to see now how major operators are launching [F/MC] services," Hanzlik says. "Some of them are true fixed/mobile convergence, like with BT Fusion in the UK, which they've aggressively marketed in the past several weeks, or T-Mobile's trial in Seattle. There's more and more happening to get these phones out there and make them available." He notes that T-Mobile has two Wi-Fi/cellular phones that are, he says, "not just certified, but in the channel and part of interesting market offerings."

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