Home Zone Grown

By Naomi Graychase

October 10, 2007

Mobile operators begin to employ Wi-Fi in their bid to conquer the home phone market.

Recent studies (including two from The Yankee Group) show that consumers are making up to 40% of their mobile phone calls from home. According to a 2006 study by Harris Interactive, only 58% of U.S. adults subscribe to wireline services, but 74% subscribe to wireless phone service. As landlines slowly go the way of the Dodo, and Wi-Fi use at home increases, mobile operators are competing to grab hold of that sizable “home zone” market by employing dual-mode handset services and femto-based systems.

 

Among the carriers getting into the game is T-Mobile, which recently launched HotSpot @Home, a service that offers unlimited calling via dual-mode handsets and customers’ home WLANs. Sprint is also testing the waters with its Airave femtocell, which it is marketing as “a little magic box.” AT&T is considering getting in the game as well. It issued an RFP exploring femtocells this summer.

 

According to a study released last week by Infonetics Research, a market research firm with offices in the U.S. and the UK, there is some serious money at stake. The study predicts that the worldwide FMC (fixed-mobile convergence) market, including UMA network controllers, multi-access convergence gateways, and dual mode cellular/Wi-Fi phones, will climb to US$46.3 billion in just three years’ time (2010).

 

"UMA, which was believed to have short legs just a year ago, is the predominant technology deployed today to implement seamless FMC between wireless LAN and 2G cellular networks,” says Stephane Teral, principal analyst at Infonetics Research. “For those who still believe UMA will be short-lived, it can now support 3G, is backed by the 3GPP, has a clear migration roadmap to IMS, and is becoming the default case for femtocells."

 

In terms of handset manufacturers, currently, Nokia is the worldwide dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi phone market share leader, followed at some distance by Sony Ericsson and Motorola.



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