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VOIP Cell Phones Coming Soon 138

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the it-can-even-cut-through-this-tin-can dept.
prostoalex writes "Associated Press reports on the latest cell phones with WiFi support demoed at this year's CTIA Wireless 2006 conference. New models fall back to WiFi hotspot when the user is at home, at work, or cellular signal gets too weak. Biggest surprise? The cell phone conversation is not dropped when the switch between cellular network and WiFi hotspot takes place."
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VOIP Cell Phones Coming Soon

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  • by JoeLinux (20366) <joelinux AT gmail DOT com> on Monday April 10, 2006 @02:29AM (#15097818) Homepage
    Maybe it's just me, but I would think that the preference would be for wifi first, THEN cellular. You'd burn less minutes that way.

    But, heck, what do I know? I still think that that coyote is gonna get that RoadRunner some day.
    • It probably should be, but I have a feeling that the switch only goes one way: cellular to wifi.
      • It probably should be, but I have a feeling that the switch only goes one way: cellular to wifi.

        all of this raises an interesting question. Is the NSA currently tapping / sniffing the Interenet for voice? That is, tapping / sniffing VOIP?

        And if not, will this hasten the day when NASA does so? I can hear it now. "All of these people are now connected end to end via WIFI and VOIP through their cell phones. We must be able to tap / sniff those conversations.

        • all of this raises an interesting question. Is the NSA currently tapping / sniffing the Interenet for voice? That is, tapping / sniffing VOIP?

          And if not, will this hasten the day when NASA does so? I can hear it now. "All of these people are now connected end to end via WIFI and VOIP through their cell phones. We must be able to tap / sniff those conversations.

          According to the EFF [eff.org]:

          "The evidence that we are filing supports our claim that AT&T is diverting Internet traffic into the hands of the NSA wholes

    • by HazE_nMe (793041) on Monday April 10, 2006 @02:36AM (#15097837) Homepage
      From TFA:
      UMA works by tunneling cellular information packets through the Internet when Wi-Fi is available and reverting to cellular towers when it is not.

      From what the article said, it does prefer wifi over cell towers.

      • From what the article said, it does prefer wifi over cell towers.

        Sure, but if the phone can switch from wifi to cellular and back again without dropping your call, what this really means is that you're still communicating with your provider (using VoIP) and so you're still getting charged for minutes. Of course it is probably possible to use your own provider like vonage or something similar with these types of phones, but you would not be able to seemlessly switch from one to the other (vonage on wifi t

      • by pNutz (45478)
        But you're paying cell rates to tunnel through Wifi, when you could be using a VoIP carrier over wifi. That's $19.95/month for unlimited minutes [broadvoice.com] vs. $100/month or so from a cell provider.

        The GP seemed to think that minutes from the cell provider would be cheap or free over Wifi. This is unlikely and not indicated in the article.

        Of course, you would have to buy your own phone for Wifi VoIP. At the moment they're like cell phones from 1995 and cost $200-500.
    • but then the carrier would have to over charge you even more to make up for the money your saving.
    • Maybe it's just me, but I would think that the preference would be for wifi first, THEN cellular. You'd burn less minutes that way.

      You clearly haven't been living in a capitalist country for long if you think that companies give a damn about what the consumer wants.

      -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
      • Companies in a true free market environment have a great deal of concern on "what the customer wants". The problem is that the communication industry in the US is far from actual free market. When customers have choice they buy what they want. And companies better care about that, or prepare to file bankruptcy paperwork.
      • by giorgiofr (887762) on Monday April 10, 2006 @05:22AM (#15098086)
        You clearly haven't been living in a capitalist country for long if you think that companies give a damn about what the consumer wants.

        Whereas in a communist country they certainly do.
        • Whereas in a communist country they certainly do.

          Do you speak from firsthand experience or are you just pulling stuff from your ass?
          • I have very little firsthand experience, and so I'm very interested in this "ass" storage system you speak of... what is this and will it fit all my mp3s and digital photos?

            Do I need a special cable to "pull" from it as you say?

          • Do you know anything about me? No? That's why you're using projection to try and understand what I think/know/do. That says nothing about who I actually am, but speaks volumes about what YOU do - pull things from your ass.
            For your information, yes, even two days ago I was talking to a girl who ran away from a communist regime and discussing the relative advantages/disadvantages of living in either of the opposing systems. And that's just anecdotal... I might quote many more *actual people* I have talked to
        • by LS (57954)
          To all the igornant moderators that marked this bit of uninformed sarcasm as insightful, I can tell you as someone who HAS moved to China, and has lived in Beijing for one year, that everything is actually quite customer oriented and personal here. You never have to talk to a machine on the phone, the person behind the counter ignores everyone else until finished dealing with you, everything is anonymous (gas, electric, phone, etc through smart cards), you can negotiate prices, and storefronts are generally
    • "fall back to WiFi hotspot when the user is at home, at work". I agree that the wording could be better, but they meant to say that these new cell phones hold a list of trusted wifi networks which it will prefer over a cellular connection, such as a home or work wifi network.

      How do I know, besides reading the article? I develop for cutting edge cell phones and PDA's for a living.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        fall back to WiFi hotspot when the user is at home, at work

        I agree that the wording could be better

        Indeed, the wording is confusing. Usually fall back means "use a lesser alternative when the preferred alternative is not available".

        In this context, "preferred" means "cheaper", and the system should "fall back" to cell only if a trusted wifi is not available, not the other way round.

        Or, alternatively: "spring forward to WiFi hotspot when the user is at home, at work". Ha!

      • by weave (48069) on Monday April 10, 2006 @07:52AM (#15098425) Journal
        I assume that those minutes over wifi aren't going to be free. The call still has to enter the carriers network at some point and they aren't going to invest in this if there is no monetary incentive for them. So if they aren't free, what's the incentive for a consumer to have their calls go over their house wifi instead of using the tower then? What happens when their kid is running bittorrent and clogging up the line?
        • Yup, though if you could modify it to use SIP instead of the provider's seamless failover, your cell phone would make a spiffy handset for an asterisk box. That'd give you a number of options if you're handling all your telcome stuff through asterisk. For example, you could change your phone system's behavior based on whether you're home or not, route calls to your cellular service when you're away from the house or not logged in to your sip connection, and never give out your cell service number. That'd re
    • by johndapunk (844816) on Monday April 10, 2006 @03:24AM (#15097920) Homepage
      A good reason not to do this is availibility cell tower slots and resulting customer service issue of dropped calls. Cingular is advertising their great low drop call percentage... what they don't tell you is the number of calls that are not able to be completed. I live in a college town and at busy hours of the day I cannot make a phone call for one to two hour stretches. The thing to consider is that cell towers have a greater service area, so when you leave the WiFi hotspot and try to use the nice big cell tower, you call gets dropped because the tower can not handle your call. This makes people angry that their call got dropped by their provider and may make them want to switch. The whole idea is that falling back onto the WiFi hotspot will give the uptime for calls. Generally the only time cell coverage will drop is when you go inside builds, which is also the place where you have the greatest chance of picking up a WiFi signal. I can't wait for my WiMax phone :-)
    • I am almost absolutely certain that whichever vector your data travels through, you'll be locked into one provider. Do you think the Brother Bells will let you make calls over Skype when you're connected at Starbucks? I certainly don't.
    • "Maybe it's just me, but I would think that the preference would be for wifi first, THEN cellular. You'd burn less minutes that way."

      But then that'd be pretty bad for the cellular service providers no. Think of it this way: customers need an incentive to thrash their old cells and buy new ones, and cool new features is that incentive most of the time.

      Celllular service providers need a really good incentive not to.. you know.. ensure something 'appens with the phone makers' management, that'd be a shame, rig
    • by squiggleslash (241428) on Monday April 10, 2006 @07:34AM (#15098378) Homepage Journal
      I think you misunderstand the technology, which isn't surprising given the article summary.

      First, yes, the preference is for calls to be routed via Wifi.

      However, no, you don't burn less minutes. The technology under discussion is called UMA. It's a way of tunnelling GSM over 802.11 or Bluetooth (or presumably other future home wireless standards.) The phone call still has to be routed to your carrier (only, over the Internet rather than via the carrier's towers) otherwise your call would get dropped the moment you get out of range of your wireless network.

      This is not the same thing as those mobile phones that also support Skype (for example) over 802.11. It's essentially a way for GSM subscribers to make their own home have less coverage blackspots (and help the carrier gain a little more capacity.) Your call costs may go down (or rather, the amount of minutes you get for your dollar may increase), because by doing this you're increasing capacity for the network, but it's possible a carrier will give you "free airtime" when you're in range of your wireless network, generally that's not the way they operate.

      There is one major downside BTW, which is that in order to use an access point, it has to be registered with the carrier, and generally you need to manually tell the phone about it (once, obviously, not every time you get in range.) So don't think people are just going to set up ad-hoc wireless networks in well known blackspots just to help Cingular and T-Mobile customers out.

    • It really seems to me that -- especially as free/cheap alternatives like this come online -- that the only way cell companies are going to keep customers is to allow all-you-can-use packages (voice and data) at reasonable prices.

      Counting minutes? Seriously? Let it go already...

      You want your customer to use the product so much that they can't imagine living without it; not to instinctively try to avoid using it whenever possible due to (effectively) micropayments.
    • "I would think that the preference would be for wifi first, THEN cellular. You'd burn less minutes that way."

      Sure, if you're a cell provider willing to sacrifice profits to increase convenience and value for the user, then yes... that makes perfect sense!
  • Phone number (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zouden (232738) on Monday April 10, 2006 @02:34AM (#15097831)
    Having your cell phone connected through VoIP while at home is all well and good, but what about your phone number? When someone calls your cell number, it's going to have to get switched over to the internet (rather than the cellular network) to get through to your phone. That's going to require help from the carriers, and they probably aren't too happy about this.
    • Re:Phone number (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Elminst (53259)
      Most likely, the phones would be polled every few minutes to see what they're attached to.
      In much the same way that the cell towers check to see if your phone is still within range when you're not using it. This is the reason your phone sets off your speakers or makes your monitor twitch randomly

      So the system sends out a signal to find the phone based on its last known location. Or the phone checks in with the system every few minutes to give an update on how to reach it.

      Doesn't sound like much of a stretch
      • Re:Phone number (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Elminst (53259) on Monday April 10, 2006 @02:53AM (#15097866) Homepage
        And I just realized that my comment doesn't really address your real concern; that the internet carriers are going to want a piece of the pie for carrying data for the cell phone carriers.
        The upside is that many of them are owned by the same people, eg. Cingular is owned by ATT & BellSouth. Verizon is, well, Verizon.

        Although it's mentioned in the article that "internet minutes" may be cheaper that "cell tower" minutes because wifi radio spectrum and the internet are cheaper than running cell towers.

        But the problem comes when you're not at home. Pop down to the coffee shop and start talking on your cell phone using the wifi hotspot. You pay the cell company less... but who pays the internet bill for your cell traffic?

        Sounds like a new level of peering agreement wars... Yay.
        • Re:Phone number (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Belial6 (794905) on Monday April 10, 2006 @03:30AM (#15097929)
          How about the same person that would pay for the rest of your TCP/IP traffic.
        • Seems to me that the cellular connection would be always on. When you recieve a call, it routes over the cell network, then the handset would redirect if it can also connect via WiLan. That would also have the advantage of verifying the connection. If you're behind a firewalled NAT, it's possible to connect to the internet, but not be able to route VoIP traffic.

          The cellular connection would only be dropped if the VoIP connection is verified in-call That way if you're outside and still connected to the L
          • The point of this is so that you can use your cell phone when you are NOT in range of the cell network... So having the phone always connect to the cell network defeats one of the main purposes of this technology.

            FireFury03 already gave a more clear explanation of what I was trying to say.
      • Re:Phone number (Score:5, Interesting)

        by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@NOspam.nexusuk.org> on Monday April 10, 2006 @05:37AM (#15098117) Homepage
        Most likely, the phones would be polled every few minutes to see what they're attached to.
        In much the same way that the cell towers check to see if your phone is still within range when you're not using it. This is the reason your phone sets off your speakers or makes your monitor twitch randomly


        Actually, GSM phones don't get polled very frequently at all (usually every few hours ISTR). But the phone listens to the base station and if it goes out of range of one and into range of the other it will transmit to inform the network that it's moved. If the phone outright goes out of range then the first the network usually knows about it is when it tries to contact the phone (e.g. to place a call or send an SMS) and doesn't get a response. Which is why there is sometimes a few seconds of silence after dialling an out-of-coverage cellphone before it drops you through to voicemail - it's trying to contact the phone in it's last known cell and when that times out you get forwarded to voicemail.

        Polling the phone regularly has the disadvantage that the phone has to transmit acks regularly too and transmitting eats the batteries. Far better for the phone to just listen and only transmit to tell the network that it's moved.

        I imagine that the way this system will work is to record both a "last known" cell and a "last known" IP address. The last known IP will be tried first and if it fails then the last known cell will be tried.

        I'm not sure how they will bill for the seamless handoff stuff though - maybe the whole thing will be charged at cellular rates, in which case there doesn't seem to be a lot of advantage to the end user.
    • Re:Phone number (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      or if you set up an asterisk box at home, dont hand out your cell phone number, and have all the switching take place at your asterisk box, forwardning calls to your mobile via wifi or GMS depending on whatever condition you set.
    • The mobile operators are happier to take a small cut from your wifi connected mobile that is connecting to their infrastructure over the internet, than to not take a cut from your wifi connected mobile connecting to your own asterisk or to Skype.

      And I guess that a lot people will be willing to pay for not having to figure out Skype/Asterisk/whatever on their mobile and telling friends, relatives and business associates which number to call at what times.

    • Re:Phone number (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm not an expert, but these are precisely the sort of features that the IMS [wikipedia.org] (IP Multimedia Subsystem) is intended to deliver mobile network operators. The IMS is based primarily around SIP [wikipedia.org] which is a widely adopted open VoIP standard.

      Given the amount of industry push behind IMS and SIP, I'd be very suprised if the VoIP service in this article was not deployed in this manner. Essentially the IMS should allow a phone to register itself with the telco's network over either the cellular network or the local
    • Re:Phone number (Score:3, Informative)

      by squiggleslash (241428)
      The carriers love this [slashdot.org]. It's a system called UMA, GSM routed via TCP/IP. The calls still get routed over their network, they just reach the network via the Internet rather than their radio frequency allocations. It's essentially more bandwidth, the customers pay for the bulk of it, and the customer is essentially fixing blackspots and making their own coverage a little more reliable without the carrier having to do anything.

      Despite the use of the term VoIP in the headline, this has nothing to do with Vona

    • by Art Popp (29075) *
      The carriers are very happy about this, but, as others have observed the fact that it's VOIP doesn't mean it's "anybody's VOIP" that it works with.

      The UMA data network simply allows the carrier turn any WiFi access point into an additional cell tower on their network. The advantage for the consumer, discounted minutes at home. The advantage for the carrier fewer expensive cell towers to cover the same number of people.

      In many demographics 40% of people's cellphone calls are made from home. It will be a t
  • Uh-Huh (Score:2, Funny)

    by BusDriver (34906)
    The cell phone conversation is not dropped when the switch between cellular network and WiFi hotspot takes place.

    Don't make me laugh. Mobile carriers still can't even get this right with GSM!

    "That's good," he said. "This is seamless handover. The voice didn't drop. Nothing bad happened."

    Anyone else get the impression Nokia Man sounded just as shocked as I am? :)

    [I'm just having a bit of fun - Don't take this post seriously!]
    • My GSM phone works fine from cell to cell, but what does not work for me is a moving Wifi, even just boring old data. For example, I recently started an ftp while I was walking to a meeting. As I walked, the AP changed but the network was the same (and I was always within AP reach). Still, dropped the ftp connection.

      Seamless handover from cell to wifi is non-trivial and will require that the telco provide the skype-like service to deal with the call and the handover. This means that you're still going to ge

      • Why would you get charged big-time? A few (hundred) regional servers to make latency as low as possible is going to cost a hell of a lot less than thousands of cell towers.

        The seamless handoff doesn't seem that complicated. When you walk into an area with WiFi, the phone contacts the provider's servers, and voice data starts going over a different route. Keep a minimal connection to the cell network so that you can instantly start using it again. I'm not sure how GSM works, but with CDMA, it only uses the

      • I live in New Zealand too (Auckland - what a hell hole though I'm in Napier at the moment)

        My post was mostly joking, VF's cell handoff is a lot better than it used to be a couple of years ago. Most problems also were nothing to do with the GSM protocol and more to do with coverage (at least according to what people have told me, I don't claim to be authoritive on this!)

        As for your FTP, it's interesting. I work with IP/switched networks for my job, I'm not 100% sure how that should work. I'd think your ma
        • Yup, as you say cell call dropping when hop from cell to cell is not a GSM issue, but a congestion issue. If the new cell cannot take a new call then it falls on the floor. We're now at a state in most places that we don't see more cell sites being put in, just more capacity being added to existing sites.
  • by ImaNihilist (889325) on Monday April 10, 2006 @02:41AM (#15097848)
    Something to piss off the big phone companies even more. Once Qwest gets bought out there will only be two left: Verizon and AT&T. Add in the two big broadband providers, Comcast and AOL TimeWarner and you've got a grand total of four companies that will control everything. You better believe that if most voice communications go VoIP/broadband that they are going to have their annual meeting behind closed doors a little early to discuss how everyone needs to start charging a per GB monthly fee for data. Sure, they'll do it under the guise of "extra" speed and lower prices. "Get Comcast Highspeed for just $19.99* per month! 15Mbps speeds! *$19.99 for the first 10GB and just $1 per GB after that" Pft.
    • by bhima (46039) <Bhima.Pandava @ g m a i l . c om> on Monday April 10, 2006 @03:26AM (#15097922) Journal
      I don't get what you're whining about... It's fair that people pay for excessive transfer volumes. The ISP connection packages in the US have always baffled me... there are so few choices.

      Here in Austria we may have fewer ISPs but the number of available packages dwarfs what is available in the US... For example my mum has a package with medium bandwidth but very low transfer volume, this gives her a nice experience on the internet (and the computer updates actually get done) for the nearly the same price as dial up. I have a high bandwidth with a "Fair Use" transfer volume that is un-metered during off hours, and my little brother has the high bandwidth unlimited transfer volume package for his attempt to collect all the porn in the known universe.

      It's not the paying for transfer volume that's bad... it's the unethical business practices of American businesses that's bad.

    • The big phone companies should have IT departments warning them about this kind of thing, I mean, technology is always evolving and getting cheaper!

      How long before the entire communications framework, wire and radio, become a public service just like water and electricity? Something that you're granted just for paying you taxes. How long before we can get full convergence of all services, data and voice, and voice traffic become so cheap that it will cost more to charge for the service than to actually prov
  • Here in Japan (Score:5, Informative)

    by mxpengin (516866) on Monday April 10, 2006 @02:41AM (#15097849) Homepage
    Big news, Japan has [infosyncworld.com] had [imodestrategy.com] cell [docomo.biz] phones with VoIP support since 2004. nice technology .
    • Yep. Infrastructure technologies always come faster to small countries. Less to build.

      Don't like it? Move to Monaco!

      • sure, wiki [wikipedia.org] agrees that Monaco is number 1 in population density. It's 32,409 people cover a mere 1.95km^2, or 16,620 persons per square km.
        New York City [wikipedia.org], however has 8,168,338 people crammed into 785.6km^2 which would slot it in second place (against countries) at 10,292 persons per square km.

        So although New York only has about 2/3 the density, it has 250 times the total population. If you're looking for a customer base for some new tech I'd take my odds in New York (despite how rich Monaco is...)

        Oh, an

        • Actually, I was looking only at area, not population density. You can set up one tower and give the whole of Monaco WiFi and cell service. It's less than a square mile in area. The only thing smaller is Vatican City.

          Japan is about the size of Texas and New Mexico combined, or about one tenth the size of the continental US. Since the US is also less densely populated than Japan and also has more total population (about double), even if you want to maximize the coverage by population density you still hav

    • It's the clean in-call handover that is hard and will require a Skype-like service that is tied in with the telco's cell handling to get the call handover to happen. That is going to lock you in to your telco so they'll still be able to screw you for the call.

      Ericsson demoed some Bluetooth handsets that could do clean handover a long while back. THese would use BT to BT for short distance and could then switch to BT--POTS and finally cell. I don't think this was ever commercialised.

    • Yeah wake me up when they have WiMax SIP based phones. I predict a mom and pop telco industry will rise up to offer cometitive prices just like the first ISPs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 10, 2006 @02:49AM (#15097861)
    Go to http://www.umatechnology.org/ [umatechnology.org]

    UMA is the technology that supports WiFi cellular voice. A processing unit (known as a UNC) must be added to the cellular operator's network. The UNC bridges the WiFi-carried voice into the cellular network.

  • Money (Score:2, Funny)

    But analysts said Cingular is concerned that offering Wi-Fi calls inside a home could hurt its parent companies' landline businesses. Plus, there's the question of how to charge customers, who might expect free calls.

    Yes, we mustn't let new technology get in the way of existing revenue streams.

    -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
    • s/technology/revenue streams
      I still don't understand why these companies fight so hard against things that would actually bring them more money and happier customers by simply adapting.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Biggest surprise? The cell phone conversation is not dropped I already have a WiFi phone. It doesn't even attempt to be a cellphone. It's pure WiFi. It's a UT Starcom F1000. It can't even make it longer than 12 hours without CRASHING. That's not 12 hours of active use, that's not even making a single phone call, that's just sitting there on my desk, right next to my WiFi box, doing nothing. It goes into "downloading firmware" mode and that's it, it needs to be power cycled, and there's no way to sto
  • by evilandi (2800) <andrew@aoakley.com> on Monday April 10, 2006 @03:16AM (#15097898) Homepage
    British Telecom's "Fusion" service [bt.com] already provides this. It uses a variant of either the Motorola Razr V3 or Motorola V560 cellphone with Bluetooth, and is shipped with a dedicated BT Bluetooth & WiFi ADSL router that handles both the VOIP calls and regular broadband access for home computers. It's available to anyone in the UK with a British Telecom phoneline that supports ADSL broadband - which is over 99% of the population, including almost all rural areas such as mine.

    Most people think the calls route over the normal analogue voice line, but the giveaway that it is VOIP is on this page [bt.com] where they state "can make up to three simultaneous calls", obviously this is must therefore be routed over the ADSL side rather than the voice side.
  • Biggest Suprise? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LowbrowDeluxe (889277) on Monday April 10, 2006 @03:26AM (#15097923)
    "The cell phone conversation is not dropped when the switch between cellular network and WiFi hotspot takes place."

    Speaking as ex tech-support for an VOIP service that will remain anonymous, allow me to say that half the time American VOIP service over anything except fiber-optic can't manage to maintain a phone call period. =p
    I'm not sure I believe the Japanese firms are really doing it any better, but they do have a better infrastructure set up, so maybe it does work halfway decently.

    It might help if the half of America that jumped on VOIP because it was cheap would at least update the rest of their technology along with it. No matter how good the connection your ISP is giving you is, if you're still using a modem and router that would manage higher data transmission rates if converted to carrier pigeon roosts, your overall experience will be lousy.
    And wiring. Ma Bell laid copper wire may be good enough for the telecomms to still wring a profit out of, but it's probably not helping your connection any. Nor are the cords that have been hidden behind your desk getting chewed by cats for the last ten years.
    Also, interference from large stacks of electronics piled on your desk, certain brands of laptop and ginormous desktop monitors, halogen lights, and having metals like a fridge, or say, wall full of plumbing between your wireless router and where-ever you're trying to use equipment.
    Allright, I'm going to shut up now. Suffice to say, I could go on for two more pages at least.
    It's a good technology with 'a lot of potential', but as for something for widespread daily use? That marriage of consumer and product will be about as good as the one to the girl with the 'nice personality'. If they were lying about the personality. =p

    And then there's cell phones. Never did the tech support for those, but I saw it.
    "Your cell phone isn't working? Hmmm, let me check a few things."
    *Anonymous network down across the entire southwest*
    "Well, it might be a network problem, we'll get you back up as soon as possible. What? No, only a few people affected I'm sure."

    Ah, the lies, the horrible, horrible lies.....

    *cough* Sorry, my therapist said I was over it....

    *He lied too!!!!*
  • by mgabrys_sf (951552) on Monday April 10, 2006 @03:29AM (#15097927) Journal
    Looks like some people need VOIP badly.

    A guy in Malaysia got hit with a 281 trillion dollar bill:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12247590/ [msn.com]

    And believe it or not, the phone company hasn't fessed up to an error as of yet and is threatening full criminal charges for non-payment.

    What's the interest on a 281 trillion dollar loan anyway? I think only the US Treasury could tabulate it.
    • Thats a good one

      It wasn't clear whether the bill was a mistake, or if Yahaya's father's phone line was used illegally after his death.

      How? by calling the magellanic clouds?

      My wife is Malaysian, and I know how hard it can be to deal with the bureaucracy there.

    • 281 trillion? Do the world's GDP's amount to more than that? He must have been calling Stargate Atlantis ...
    • Our own Treasury can't even begin to fathom having 218 trillion in it's own pocket, much less the 9-10+ trillion we currently have in debt.
    • Mom's a reporter and a few years back did a story on a family in Florida whose son signed on to one of those "free internet" deals. The catch? The provider was located in eastern Europe somewhere and in less than a month he ran up a $10,000 phone bill. The further catch? That line supposedly had a long distance restricton on it and should have never have been allowed to make those calls in the first place. The phone company's attitude was "Sorry, you have to pay up anyway."

      Last I heard they were still try

  • I really liked how the people interviewed in the article kept saying something like "consumers might expect calling over wi-fi would be free". As if they were somehow being unreasonable or uninformed.

    As far as I'm concerned real wi-fi phones which don't even let your carrier know how many wi-fi minutes you are using can't come soon enough. I hate the high prices, ridiculous options and general blood sucking (prices for ringtones) and can't wait till they are the ones begging the technology companies to include support for their off wi-fi network you use when you leave the city or have at least started offering wi-fi type service in cities.

    Ultimately of course the upshot of all of this is that we will be paying more for DSL/landline phones as well as for remote cell phone service. In both the landline phone market and the cell phone market massive fixed costs are amortized over a huge number of phone calls. The fixed line phone calls then in effect subsidize DSL service (the phone companies make money on it but wouldn't if they had to do all the maintence/set up the phone lines just for DSL). Similarly all the cellphone calls made in big cities subsidize building cell phone towers in more rural locations. As the distinction between different sorts of data transmission inevitably disappears the price per unit of reasonably low latency Kb must equalize. I mean it really is absurd that it is cheaper to use your phone line for DSL and utilize Skype than it is to call on a real phone. This will force the price of DSL up as it becomes less subsidized by phone calls and the existance of Wi-Fi phones will remove the ability of the cell companies to subsidize the less used more rural towers (unless of course they are just doing things in a really inefficent fashion compared to google/earthlink in SF)

    At least this is what happens if the DSL prices aren't constrained by local laws, in which case we will just see more tricks trying to offer tiered access charging for cell phone use (instead of by Mb) or other stupid money generating tricks.
    • Ummmm.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689)
      As far as I'm concerned real wi-fi phones which don't even let your carrier know how many wi-fi minutes you are using can't come soon enough.
      If you want to talk to anyone, your cellphone-over-wifi connection needs to get terminated back into the regular phone system somehow.

      That's what you pay for and it's why all the internet-only VIOP services are free, because they don't connect you into the PSTN.
      • If you want to talk to anyone, your cellphone-over-wifi connection needs to get terminated back into the regular phone system somehow

        That's only true because the phone companies (fixed and cell) are discouraging VOIP from the market through FUD. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's a numbers game; where sufficient numbers adopt a particular VOIP standard, the balance will fall in VOIP's favour. The fact that that balance has not yet tipped doesn't indicate that the old PSTN system is somehow a mandatory st
      • By carrier I meant cell phone carrier. Unlike the other responder I wasn't imagining a situation where you totally avoided phone companies all together. In fact such a situation hardly seems possible as someone is going to be carrying your packets and they will know you are making a call whether you are doing so using an internet phone or a regular phone (you don't really think the telcos aren't tracking the amount of Skype traffic on their networks do you?)

        I just meant a situation where sprint can't anal
  • by Aceticon (140883) on Monday April 10, 2006 @03:47AM (#15097957)
    If you read the article you will notice that this is aimed at saving costs for the mobile companies themselfs, NOT the users.

    Notice that the "seamless transition" from of having your mobile communicating over the mobile network to having it use the WiFi network requires a server on the mobile network to support it.

    The point here is that many mobile companies also own WiFi hotspot networks. With this kind of phone available they will be able to re-use those networks for mobile coverage, thus freeing more slots on the mobile network (and/or requiring less towers). Commercial WiFi hotspots are typically installed in areas with many potential users around (airports, train-stations, city centers) which are also the areas more congested in terms of mobile calls traffic, thus the potential for savings are very big. If they can get people to also use their own private WiFi hotspots at some, even beter for them.

    Maybe some savings will be passed on to the consumers or maybe not. As always, companies try to make as much money as possible, thus they will only pass the savings on to consumers (via reduced prices) if:
    a) They still make more money out of it. So for example, expect cheaper (but not free) "home" minutes if you use your own personal WiFi hotspot.
    b) They are being squezed by other technologies and need to reduce prices in order to stay competitive.

    Hopefully the technology will be implemented in such a way that it might be possible to use it WITHOUT support from the side of the mobile network operator. Quite possibly this first generation won't support it out-of-the-box. Don't expect quite a seamless transition of calls between networks though.
    • No, it's aimed at the end users. Just not yet. You can buy VOIP handsets that connect over 802.11 already. These are significantly cheaper than mobile 'phones. If you live in an area with ubiquitous WiFi, then they may be more economic than a full mobile. As WiFi coverage extends, this will be true for more and more people. This is likely to cut into the profits of the mobile 'phone manufacturers[1] as well as the carriers. Eventually, the VOIP handset market is likely to be as big as the mobile hand
    • It helps both. It lowers costs for the carrier (savings which will be passed on to both customers and shareholders in the long term), but also provides the carrier's customers with ways to get around in-home blackspots that a carrier will never, and can never, fix.
  • Great... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cunk (643486) on Monday April 10, 2006 @03:53AM (#15097965)
    ...yet another technology Verizon will not allow their customers to enjoy. This would be the final straw for me.
  • Surprise, surprise (Score:2, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 (956391)
    "Biggest surprise? The cell phone conversation is not dropped when the switch between cellular network and WiFi hotspot takes place."

    That'd be the only surprize, since there are phones that use wifi for walkie talkie emulation for some time now.

    One could really wonder how is this supposed to work at all, after all the whining from big telcos, how VOIP support needs special quality of service (QoS)to ensure low latency, no skipping, mangling etc. to work.

    But then again who believes telcos anyway.
    • Honestly, QoS helps a *lot*. What the telcos aren't mentioning is that the reason it's needed is that their networks are a patchwork of incremental upgrades and bought out regional networks that they've never bothered to actually integrate, just slapped a new logo on. In point of fact, you're probably lucky if you're not running on copper that Ma Bell laid down. Heck, if it wasn't for the fact that they'd have to pay her, they'd still have Ethel running the switchboards. I'm all in favor of companies ke
    • by 1uk34dd0 (967328)
      It does work. I use the BT Fusion service here in the UK and the transfer between mobile/cell network and VoIP is almost seemless everytime. http://www.btfusionorder.bt.com/ [bt.com]
  • I have two voip capable cellphones, a 9500 and 9300i. There are also the PalmOS wifi enabled phones too most of which can get free VOIP software and make free calls from any free wireless lan.

    http://www.europe.nokia.com/nokia/0,6771,77854,00. html [nokia.com] -phone
    http://www.my-xda.com/comp.html [my-xda.com] -more phones.
    http://www.barablu.com/ [barablu.com] -voip software.
    http://www.skype.com/download/skype/mobile/ [skype.com] -more voip software
  • I'm sure the question on many slashdotter's minds is: where is the freaking Netgear Wi-Fi Skype phone we were all promised in Q1 2006?
  • Too soon to tell how this will evolve. The first two phones that used VOIP with a cellular backup have beenn out for over a year in Europe. These phones have serious dead zones in coverage no matter what the manufacturer claims. This is why the cellular backup is huge to have on the phone. The biggest problem I have seen with these phones is the design and the secured wifi access issues. Carriers of internet are going to have to work with cellular phone companies if this is to work, if not, then the wifi ne
  • What effect will this technology have on the amount of microwave radiation that a user is subject to during an average call? Seems to me that if the cell phone switches through a router only a few meters away, instead of a cell tower several blocks away, that it would be able to drop its power output considerably.

    Less microwaves to the head is always a good thing...
  • I'd love to have a phone with WIFI VOIP. In the last two places I've lived in, I cannot get cellular reception in my apartment. If I go outside, it works fine. But once the door is shut, no phone. To deal with this problem, I've subscribed to Vonage. Though I love this solution, it'd be nice to shave off $25/mo. and just use my wireless router.
    • ...Is your door lead lined? Are you a vampire? Try keeping the coffin door open a bit when you are lying down!

      Mind you, I know the feeling - I can be making a call sat down on my sofa at home and I move my head 2 inches and I've lost the signal.
  • by PhotoGuy (189467) on Monday April 10, 2006 @06:42AM (#15098250) Homepage
    Good Lord, combining all three of these frustrating technologies together. VOIP, which in my experience, is choppy and unreliable; cellular service, which is generally poor, and getting worse as they cram more calls into the same bandwidth; and wireless, which never lives up to it's speed/distance claims. The cell phone companies can't seem to pull off not dropping calls between freaking cell towers, how can they promise calls won't be dropped with this technology.

    I'm pretty skeptical as to how well this will work.

    • I like to call this my laptop in heat syndrome...where I am near a bunch of wireless networks that aren't my own, and my chipset keeps letting me know about it.

      Now my cell-phone will have this also, only I know that 'Can you hear me now' doesn't want me to switch off their network willingly, so can I expect to be bombarded with a bunch of barely audible dings alerting me to the existence of a number of wireless networks that might authenticate me or not? I wonder what happens to my call then.

      "But U.S.
  • by Shishak (12540) on Monday April 10, 2006 @07:28AM (#15098360) Homepage

    That means that the phone will keep a VoIP session opened with the cell phone providers switch. The cell phone provider can continue to bill you insane per minute rates while you ride on someone elses network. Sounds like a great deal for the cell phone providers. As a VoIP provider I wonder if I can get a cell phone to connect back to me so I don't have to build network either.
  • Haha - with Verizon's two-tier internet, your VoIP call won't get the latency and uptime it needs to keep the quality it had before your lost your crappy Verizon wireless signal. Welcome to second-class citizenship, where you pay more for less service. Verizon will probably sell Verizon Wireless a "special DSL package" for extra money, but mixing wireless service from one telco wwith broadband from another will get you cut out and ripped off.

    Sprint, AT&T and the other telcos won't be any different. And
  • by certel (849946)
    VOIP is really challenging the networks, both cellular and voice, as the big players are getting worried about cost reduction of keeping old voice lines, etc. Should be interesting.
  • I imagine battery life is significantly reduced using wifi especially if you're using WAP/WPA encryption (if it's even supported?)
  • From the article: "Biggest surprise? The cell phone conversation is not dropped when the switch between cellular network and WiFi hotspot takes place."

    Errr... why is this a surprise? I would have thought this feature would have been one of the first requirements in the spec. In fact what consumer would seriously consider a phone that would drop a call mid converstaion? Frankly, if that's the biggest surprise, I'm not expecting much.
  • From TFA:

    "But analysts said Cingular is concerned that offering Wi-Fi calls inside a home could hurt its parent companies' landline businesses.

    Plus, there's the question of how to charge customers, who might expect free calls.

    "Pricing is always an issue," said Cingular spokesman Ritch Blasi. "Who's network are you going to be using, and do you share minutes? ... People might expect that because they're calling on a Wi-Fi that they're paying for a broadband connection into their home already."


    Yea
  • Mobile Handover is a bith, even if you stay in your own network. Some very clever guys managed to make it work for GSM, CDMA, UMTS and the likes. But GSM handover to WiFi and back? Maybe even on just any hotspot that happens to be around? Without dropping the call? Anyone on Slashdot that does this? Because I would love to hear how.
  • Face it. There is no reason talking on the phone for one minute should cost more than sending and receiving 500K of data. That uses the old way of converting voice to data--64K bits per second. (64,000 bps * 60 secs/min / 8 bits per byte = 480,000 bytes/min)

    It is, after all, just data going from point A to point B (and coming back). I don't know the current numbers but, back in the 90's, voice only consumed a few percent of the total of the transferred data.

    The network should be good enough to get the d

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