Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Trends: VoIP calls using wifi

This is really a big plus for cell phone users. A phone that supports both the cell network and wifi, allowing you to make a VoIP (Voice over IP) call over the Internet whenever you are in range of a wireless access point. This paradise is guarded by none other than your own cell phone provider. Fortunatly, the technology is coming and there's nothing any of them can do to stop it.

It's been a subject of rumors and conversations for a few years: Phones that could support VoIP calls, either over the cell network itself, or over bluetooth, and more recently over wifi, like TruPhone, an application that was announced as being able to connect any Nokia S60 phone to a VoIP service, but failed to show any result. The amount of bandwidth required, and the fact that wireless hotspots are becoming so popular, make wifi the ideal solution. While there are not a lot of phones supporting it now, there are quite a few that were announced and they are coming.

Last year Skype, the most popular VoIP network currently, announced a Pocket PC version allowing anyone with a Pocket PC device to connect to their account. Today they announced a new Skype phone allowing you to easily connect to the Skype VoIP network at any wifi hotspot. It's not the first VoIP phone, Vonage has one too, and some information has appeared about the Linksys WIP330, another VoIP phone. They're still not perfect, but it's getting there. Some providers are even trying to take advantage of the new technologies like the Rogers Home Phone.

Next year will really be the year of the smart phone. There are simply tons being announced, and many of those will support wifi. Of course some providers hate the idea that we'll soon be able to bypass their network any time we're within range of a wireless signal to switch our calls over the Internet, but with technologies like UMA and WiMax, I'm convinced it's coming, and we're already seeing some interesting offerings, like Cingular offering wifi hotspots to go along their EDGE and wifi cards for laptops.


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