Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Nokia phone switches between Wi-Fi, cell networks

The Austin American-Statesman picks up a wire story that reports on Nokia's launch of the 6136 handset, which "automatically switches between the Internet and standard cellular networks." According to Nokia, the handset will allow users to "begin a mobile call over a cell network and continue that call over a wireless network at work," and vice versa.

Rob Enderlet at Enderle Group said, "Blended wireless phones will continue to proliferate and do represent a bridging technology. Eventually, we will be making our calls consistently over the Internet, and the phone will simply become another wireless Internet appliance."

Enderle added, "Right now, though, we simply don't have wireless Internet capability strong enough to make that future a reality. Until then, these dual-mode phones will be the closest we will be able to come to the wireless Internet phones of tomorrow."

According to Charles Golvin at Forrester Research, "currently, less than 6 percent of American households have a Wi-Fi network at home, and even fewer European households have such a network." He said, "Certainly we will see more devices that integrate Wi-Fi and cellular, but in the near term, these devices will remain on the high-end side. It will take a while for consumers in the mainstream to adopt this kind of model."

Julie Ask at JupiterResearch estimated "it would be an additional two to three years before Internet calling via cell phones hits the mainstream," due to the network operators' lack of "infrastructure to route calls over Wi-Fi networks."