Monday 6 August 2007

UMA is not Dead

I did not hear about UMA for long time and i was starting to think that this would be one of the dead technologies that never saw the light of the day. I was wrong. It was pointed out to me by a colleague that T-Mobile (U.S.) recently announced Hotspot @ home that will allow UMA access to the Mobile while within a WiFi coverage area.
Note: UMA or Unlicensed Mobile Access is no longer called UMA but by its new name GAN or Generic Access Network
T-Mobiles GAN service lets users make phone calls over their in-home WiFi networks or over T-Mobile's national cellular network, depending on whether the customer is inside a T-Mobile HotSpot or not. The big problem with UMA, though, is that users must use dual-mode phones. T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home plan currently costs $10 a month after the purchase of a dual-mode phone and WiFi router, if one isn't owned already.
AT&T (again U.S) is also planning a similar move but its going the FemtoCell Way. Industry sources have revealed that AT&T has filed a request for proposal (RFP) to suppliers that may be interested in participating in AT&T's in-home femtocell service, according to wireless trade publication Unstrung. Femtocells are access points that act as repeaters to strengthen cellular communication signals inside homes, offices, and underground areas like subways. T-Mobile is trying to accomplish a similar task with its HotSpot@Home service, which brings better call quality to subscribers through the use of WiFi routers.
Although AT&T's femtocells would likely require a broadband internet connection, femtocells don't use the WiFi routers that most people already have in their homes. Instead, users would need to buy a new plug-and-play unit that could cost in the area of $200. Companies like picoChip currently develop reference designs for units that could be used by AT&T or its suppliers.

Because femtocells do not use WiFi signals, they don't require dual-mode handsets, which opens up the market to customers that don't want to ditch their current phones just to get the benefits of a stronger in-home signal. Meanwhile, potential T-mobile HotSpot@Home customers can only choose between two phones (the Nokia 6086 and Samsung T409), which means existing customers have to ditch their current mobile phones for a dual-mode device. Blackberry 8820 will soon be available in U.S. which has support of UMA.
Meanwhile Kineto Wireless, the innovator and pioneer of UMA, recently joined femtoforum. In addition to the promotion of femtocell deployment, the forum is focused on addressing several key technical issues, including radio planning and control, provisioning and management, and device-to-core network connectivity. As the core network technology behind a growing number of large-scale, dual-mode handset deployments, the 3GPP UMA standard is now being recognized as the de-facto standard for device-to-core network connectivity in the femtocell market as well. Recently, Kineto initiated interoperability testing between femtocell access points and its industry leading UMA Network Controller (UNC), and has already completed testing with Ubiquisys, the number one femtocell access point vendor.
"The femtocell industry is starting to appreciate the three year head start
UMA has over proprietary approaches being proposed for device-to-core network connectivity," said Patrick Tao, Kineto's vice president of technology. "As the
technology behind successful l dual-mode handset services, such as unik from
FT/Orange and T-Mobile's Hotspot @Home, the 3GPP UMA standard has already identified and addressed the real-world deployment issues operators face in
bringing femtocells to market. These issues include security, device
authentication, access controls, handover, regulatory compliance, as well as
scalability to support millions of endpoints."
One thing to remember here is that not all mobiles supporting WiFi will support UMA. On the other hand all phones that support UMA will support WiFi.
An Introduction on UMA can be found here or here.

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