Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Google's wifi phone service - what is the bigger picture?

And all our prophecies fall in place!

Google announced it's partnership with Nokia for wi-fi phone service. A threat to cellular service, as we'd predicted last year, will leverage VoIP for making cheap calls using Google Talk (VoIM).

We will have to wait till end of this year for the rollout.

I have some concern about the limitations. An initial service using nokia's tablet costing $360 will be only accessible between users of Google Talk on either end. A user based in SF area needs a wi-fi hotspot and atleast one device in the communication channel.

Secondly, as a connected consumer, I have to use another GSM phone either locally (without hotspots or non-wifi phone end users), or, if trotting outside SF. And, what about the impending WiMax technoglogy or even HSPA that will conquer most of the wifi issues? The mobile operators will likely address ubiquity and device/billing management issues.

Consumers are sick of carrying multiple phones and paying the hefty amounts for phone calls. Although, convergence was sought in UMA phones, nothing much is being said or done about it. There are issues about connectivity and telco's egotistical views. Why would anyone surpass their infrastructure they build painstakinly over years. Though most of them succumbed to MVNO and VoIP deals worldwide(eg. Hutch's deal with skype in Europe was openly chided by other telcos). Having said that, wonder why Nokia didn't use UMA technology for addressing the bigger picture or are they saving it a for another experiment?

Skype which is already tasting success in UK, for example, is also planning a similar service somtime later in the US.

Amidst all these developments, a community wi-fi with astronomical speed of 600kbps was recently unveiled in Austin, Texas. Now, don't we need wi-fi phone service to complement this resource?

Skype, want to give it a try?

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