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VoWLAN: Coming Soon To A Handset Near You

Handsets that combine cellular access with voice-over-WLAN (VoWLAN) will be adopted more quickly than many -- including wireless carriers -- believe, according to a study released Monday by In-Stat/MDR.

The study noted that handsets that combine the two capabilities will start being available by later this year. The combined technology offers so many advantages to both users and wireless carriers that it will be rapidly adopted, starting in 2006, the study said.

"Customers get excellent coverage in the areas where they talk most, such as their homes and at work, and carriers can offer VoIP service cheap, because a minute of VoWLAN airtime costs them only a fraction of what a cellular call costs," Allen Nogee, a principal analyst with In-Stat/MDR, said in a statement.

Another benefit of the combined cellular/VoWLAN approach is that it has the potential to lessen demands on cellular capacity, the study noted. That, in turn, could drive down the cost of cellular calls, it said.

However, to pull this off, wireless operators will have to find partners who can help them with VoIP, the study found. Plus, they'll have to make transitioning to the joint technology easy for customers and, in particular, not require them to install customer premises equipment.

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