Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Dean Bubley's Disruptive Wireless: UMA conference

Dean Bubley posts at his Disruptive Wireless blog about UMA and a recent conference he attended. Here are some of his thoughts:

  • There was a common refrain of "but it's just another access technology!" which is sort-of true but ignores the fact that it's an access technology with a range of dependencies on handset capabilities & user experience, as well as things like home gateways
  • There was a fair amount of agreement with my (comparatively positive) belief that UMA may get reincarnated as a more generic authentication technology for operator-provided devices which aren't dual-mode phones.
  • There's still an underlying belief (also present in IMS circles) that "the network knows best" and that applications such as voice ought to be "access agnostic", with the "top layer" of the phone unaware of what wireless access is being used. This despite increasing numbers of discussions I'm having pointing out that Moore's Law means that phones are increasingly smart enough to decide which network to use (and how) for themselves.
  • Customer service issues remain a potential business model killer for UMA. In particular, my assertion that only households with operator-provided home gateways (rather than retail purchased WiFi APs) seems borne out by operator feedback.
  • Many operators quite like the idea of VCC as a UMA alternative, but to quote one UMA-deploying operator "unfortunately VCC's not available tomorrow". I'm also starting to suspect that it may not be as easy as it looks, either.
  • Interesting presentation from inCode suggested there's no clear roaming business model for UMA. (Interesting as well in that inCode has been a lot more UMA-positive in the past - something which had prompted me to challenge them to a head-to-head debate, which their PR people shied away from.....)
  • Nobody seemed to have considered the possibility that UMA traffic could be easily-spotted (and perhaps blocked / charged / degraded without Net Neutrality) on a non-friendly broadband ISP's connections
  • UMA business models which don't rely on cheap in-home voice as the main driver were thing on the ground. And given the other ways of getting there with HomeZones, Picocells and (as Mr Strand pointed out) cheap flatrate MVNOs, it's not obvious that this pricing argument is sustainable.