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Combo Wi-Fi/VoIP In A Handset Coming

Mobile handsets combining two super-hot technologies--Wi-Fi and VoIP--are being developed by two Japanese firms: NTT's DoCoMo and Sony Corp.

While actual introduction to the marketplace is in the distant future, the developmental work demonstrates that the concept of a 3G wireless phone that could be used to make free or relatively free phone calls is more than a gleam in the eyes of developers. DoCoMo has a business relationship with AT&T Wireless in the U. S., although the two firms currently have no service scheduled for roll out.

DoCoMo said its test model weighs four ounces and is slightly more than one inch thick. The firm added that substantial development work still needs to be done before the device can function properly.

Sony said it is working on a similar dual-functionality phone in conjunction with a private laboratory. The Sony development group is said to be experimenting with both Wi-Fi and infrared to connect with enterprise and other wireless LANs.

The concept of using a handheld PDA for VoIP telephoning was introduced this fall by Toshiba, which announced two PDAs with VoIP and Wi-Fi capabilities. The Toshiba e800 and e805 come with VoIP-enabling software. The device also has Bluetooth capability, although that wireless technology has been eclipsed by Wi-Fi. The Toshiba PDAs have many of the features of the firm's Pocket PC family. The e800s represent a glimpse into the world of wireless VoIP telephoning, combined with low-cost connection to the Internet. Users of the Toshiba devices must have a 3G mobile telephone and data service to use the VoIP technology.