"Uma-Oprah?" No, "UMA-VoWLAN"

Anyone remember that groaner joke David Letterman kept repeating when he hosted the Academy Awards a few years ago? "Uma-Oprah.

Anyone remember that groaner joke David Letterman kept repeating when he hosted the Academy Awards a few years ago? "Uma-Oprah." "Oprah-Uma."

But I am not here to talk about Uma Thurman and Oprah Winfrey, but about UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) technology, vs. wireless VoIP.

Today, British-based mobile phone news and product site cellular-news notes a new report from Disruptive Analysis (love the name). The report is entitled VoWLAN Business Models- How the wireless VoImarket catalyses fixed-mobile Convergence.  

The report says that within four years, there will be a market for 46.8 million wireless VoIP (or "VoWLAN") phones. Some 64%, or 28.8 million of these devices, Disruptive Analysis predicts, will be "dual-mode" cellular /VoWLAN devices that will be able to connect to WiFI access points and standard cellular networks.

Yes, but there is a tradeoff. Isn't there always?

The tradeoff will be that the dedicated, non-cell compatible VoWLAN phones will have greater functionality than their dual-mode cousins.

One key reason, Disruptive Analysis says,is that limits on the Unlicensed Mobile Access technology will inhibit GSM-based cell carriers from offering devices that can get into the home or office and offer VoWLAN that way. UMA as it is currently constituted does not support 3G phone services either.

Those deficiencies, Disruptive Analytics emphasizes, will clear the way to higher-end market acceptance for single-model VoWLAN phones not impeded by that restriction.

Disruptive Analytics founder and report author Dean Bubley sees the dynamic playing out like this:

"UMA generally ignores the existence of the user's PC. But if a customer has a multimedia-capable, WiFi-connected device, using their paid-for broadband connection, he or she will probably want to link the two. For voice calls and basic coverage improvement, this isn't a major issue," he says. 

"But if the phone is also an MP3 player and a multi-megapixel cameraphone, customers will be annoyed if it cannot access the PC's hard disk - or benefit from the PC's connection to the real Internet, to access email, music, VoIP or other services," he adds. "There may also be complex security and customer support issues, connecting a UMA-phone via a customer's existing WiFi access point, that mobile operators will struggle to deal with."