Vonage Holdings Corp. is working to make a connection between wireless and cellular phone services. It's working with partners to develop a line of phones and network platform that would allow consumers to switch automatically between Wi-Fi and cellular communication modes, a company executive told TechWeb.
The long-term idea is duel-mode Wi-Fi phones would replace today's cell phones, said Lou Holder, executive vice president of product development at Vonage. "It's a very probable scenario, and something we're looking at," Holder said.
The convergence between wireless local area networks and cellular networks isn't just a dream. And Holder said Vonage intends to lead consumers into these service offerings. The idea is to use the Wi-Fi capability in the home, office or retail hot spot and walk out into the street without having the call drop. Duel-mode mobile phones that can connect to either a wireless network or cellular service are expected to exceed $100 million in 2009, according to ABI Research.
Motorola, Samsung and Nokia have shipped or announced duel-mode phones that support Wi-Fi and cellular technology, according to Frank Hanzlik, managing director for the Wi-Fi Alliance. Vonage introduced the Vonage F1000 black and gray Wi-Fi phone in October. A white version is scheduled for release later this month. The 802.11b compatible handset is built by UT Starcom and has an Agere chip set. It's capable of connecting to any open Wi-Fi hotspot or to a secured network, but it doesn't work on cellular networks, yet.
A variety of companies do offer proprietary software that enable the transition between Wi-Fi and cellular, but both Holder and Hanzlik said standardization is required if the industry expects success. An IEEE group is working on an initiative known as 801.11u to evaluate standards to move between Wi-Fi and cellular technologies. "My sense is it's somewhere within a couple of years," until the standard is released, Hanzlik said. "There are still obstacles to overcome. There is no standards-based way to of moving from the cellular to Wi-Fi environment."