Another interesting note is that the BlackBerry 8820 supports UMA (unlicensed mobile access, sometimes referred to as GAN or generic access network). UMA is, at its most basic, a way of providing consumers a way of placing calls from their home Wi-Fi network and having those calls seamlessly roam to a cellular network and then back to Wi-Fi. Currently, T-Mobile is the only carrier to support the technology through its T-Mobile Hotspot @Home service. Given that AT&T Mobility (formerly Cingular) will be first to launch the device, does that mean AT&T will now offer a similar service? In short, no. I spoke briefly with John Kampfe, Director for Media & Industry Analyst Relations with AT&T Mobility who stated that just because RIM has included UMA support on the device does not mean that AT&T will actually support the technology.
While UMA support has little effect on AT&T it should make a larger splash with T-Mobile. The company's @Home service has been plagued by a lack of handset choice, particularly in the smartphone space. With the introduction of the BlackBerry 8820, T-Mobile will have a handset it can offer to business users to hopefully expand the penetration of @Home. The question is whether or not business users will buy in and whether enterprises will let them.
Of course the larger point that the 8820 raises is what will Wi-Fi support mean for Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) within the enterprise. Nokia's E-Series platform has become popular among developers not only because the devices include Wi-Fi but also because the hardware is relatively standard compared to Windows Mobile where OEMs use a wide variety of hardware configurations to create phones. RIM's BlackBerry platform offers the same level of hardware uniformity and control that Nokia has but with larger enterprise penetration, at least in the US and thus may prove attractive to developers.
RIM has already brought FMC development to the BlackBerry. FMC competitors like Avaya and DiVitas have introduced call handoff functionality that allows calls to roam between Wi-fi and cellular. My initial experiences with this sort of technology were rocky, however subsequent demos at Interop showed that companies, like DiVitas, have made some headway in this space. Given RIM's close relationship with carriers and the fact that FMC allows enterprises to reduce cellular charges by moving calls to enterprise WLAN networks, it will be interesting to see what development will happen on the BlackBerry 8820 and subsequent platforms and what the performance will be compared to its competition.