Nokia embraces convergence with Wi-Fi phone

3GSM: The Nokia 6136 could be the device that brings GSM and wireless LANs together

Mobile equipment manufacturer Nokia said it was unifying GSM and Wi-Fi connectivity on Monday with a new mobile phone that's compatible with both wireless standards.

The Nokia 6136, launched at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, is a UMA phone that Nokia claims will be able to roam seamlessly between GSM mobile and Wi-Fi networks.

Customers will be able to use the 6136 to make VoIP calls at Wi-Fi hot spots, allowing them to avoid paying a mobile call charge — although they may have to pay for Wi-Fi access instead.

The 6136 could also encourage mobile operators to offer new services that require high-speed access. GSM only supports basic data services, because of its limited bandwidth, whereas Wi-Fi can theoretically support connections of speeds in excess of 50Mbps.

"We want to help our customers complement their existing mobile services with mobile IP. UMA gives users an alternative to PC-based VoIP," said Jorma Ollila, Nokia's chief executive, at a press conference on Monday morning.

Ollila added that UMA devices would appeal to companies who wanted to reduce call costs by moving their voice and data to common IP networks.

Nokia added Wi-Fi connectivity to its high-end Communicator last November, but the 6136, though, is a more mainstream device.

The 6136 is a quad-band phone that will connect to GSM networks at 850, 900, 1800, and 1900MHz, which means it will work in the US as well as Europe. It comes with a 1.3 megapixel camera and an FM radio, and supports microSD memory cards.

An image of  the Nokia 6136 Handset

The Nokia 6136

ZDNet UK's Graeme Wearden contributed to this report.