Monday, October 30, 2006

Mobile VoIP

Mobile VoIP or 'mobile voice over Internet Protocol' is an extension of the voice over IP technology and service. It puts wings on the classic approach of VoIP.

Mobile VoIP is more than Voice over WiFi or VoWiFi. Using any broadband IP-capable wireless network connection mobile VoIP will be an application over other networks such as EVDO rev A (which is synchronously high speed - both high speed up and down), HSDPA or potentially WiMax. Mobile VoIP will enable further economic and mobility tradeoffs. For example, Voice over WiFi offers free service but is only available within the coverage area of the WiFi Access Point. High speed services from mobile operators using EVDO rev A or HSPDA with probably have better audio quality and capabilities for metropolitan-wide coverage including fast handoffs from mobile base station to another, yet it will cost more than the typical WiFi-based VoIP service.

By mid-2006, there are an estimated 70 million users of Skype - a PC to PC service for voice communications over the Internet Protocol and some 20 million users of gateway-to-gateway voice over IP services such as Vonage, and there are a billion users of mobile phone users around the world.

Each of the endpoints in any VoIP service is in various ways, a computer:

- The gateway that Vonage users plug their home phones into.

- The PC (of course) that runs the Skype client.

- and, depending on the capabilities of the specific mobile model, the mobile phone in your pocket.

Mobile VoIP will become an important service in the coming years as device manufacturers exploit more powerful processors and less costly memory to meet the users' needs for ever-more 'power in their pocket'. Smartphones in mid-2006 are capable of sending and receiving email, browse the web (albeit at low rates) and in some cases watch TV.

The challenge for the mobile operator industry is to deliver the benefits and innovations of IP without losing control of the network service. Users like the Internet to be free and high speed without extra charges for visiting specific sites versus other sites. Delivering mobile VoIP is a service that challenges the most valuable service in the telecommunications industry - voice - and threatens (or promises, depending on your views) the pace of innovation in the global communications industry.

Mobile VoIP took a significant step forward in the summer of 2006 when Nokia included not only a SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) stack but a VoIP client in their new E-series dual-mode WiFi handsets (E60, E61, E70). The E-series handsets are aimed at enterprise buyers, and significantly Nokia have announced their intention to do the same thing for consumer handsets by launching the N80 Internet edition in November 2006. In theory these handsets only require the settings to be populated into the user interface, however this process requires nearly 200 key clicks so very few unsupported users succeed in using the handsets for VoIP. The first mobile VoIP operator to launch on these handsets is the UK-based Truphone, using an OTA (Over The Air) provisioning method: users send a text to the relevant Truphone number in each country, which sends a text back containing a link which then downloads and runs a provisioning wizard.