Wi-Fi for BlackBerry By End of the Year

By James Alan Miller

May 16, 2007

Fixed/mobile convergence is key to RIM's Wi-Fi plans.

First, rumor had it that the BlackBerry 8800 might have it. And when that didn't happen, speculation turned to what became the BlackBerry Curve. But alas, with the introduction of that eagerly-awaited device, still no Wi-Fi from Research In Motion (RIM) .

Today we've got something a little more concrete regarding RIM’s Wi-Fi plans. RIM senior VP David Yach has just told eWeek that the company will integrate Wi-Fi into one of its device before the end of the year.

It appears the ability for its smartphones and handhelds to seamlessly handoff calls and data connections between a Wi-Fi (corporate) network and the cellular network is of particularly importance to RIM.

This technology, known in the industry as fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) or dual-mode, brings together the best of the unlicensed (aka Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) and licensed (cellular) wireless worlds. It allows a mobile handsets to leverage the type of wireless network that is most convenient and cheapest to use at any given moment—without service interruption and seamlessly to the end-user.

Mobile operator cooperation is essential. "We're working with the carriers to support that kind of technology," Yach explained to eWeek.

F/MC technologies like Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) - available in the GSM world - can also extend mobile phone and smartphone service to places where cellular reception might otherwise be poor or non-existent. The idea is to give mobile operators a wider footprint from which to serve subscribers, while delivering to a better overall experience.

"I think Wi-Fi is interesting because it offers a number of capabilities, and because it offers coverage where there is none," Yach said toeWeek. "You're not as concerned about usage fees. Our goal with Wi-Fi then is that Wi-Fi will just work. When you have coverage Wi-Fi will work, and when you don't you'll use something else".

Yach did not say which carriers RIM has been talking to about offering a Wi-Fi integrated BlackBerry. One likely candidate is T-Mobile, the first operator to deliver a dual-mode service in the U.S. It is also the operator with the smallest (currently non-existent) 3G footprint and by far the largest Wi-Fi footprint, with over 8,000 hotspots across the country.

Some operators with extensive 3G coverage prefer subscribers stick to their cellular-wireless broadband networks - at least when it comes to data access - as they've spent billions of dollars installing these networks over the last few years. They may see the benefit of delivering Wi-Fi-related phone services where they couldn't before, stepping onto land-line phone companies turf (e.g. indoors - business and the home - and in rural areas), through fixed-mobile convergence technology, however.

Story courtesy of SmartPhoneToday.



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