Image by Getty Images via Daylife Going to the States is great for many reasons. One of them is to test whatever is new in the States vis a vis telecomunications and the internet. While there are tons of innovation on the internet, USA is pretty backwards when it gets to telecoms. But there is a shining star and that is T Mobile, a German operator who seems to be very progressive only oustide of their own country. Among the T Mobile novelties is their UMA implementation. UMA is a standard that allows you to seamlessly transfer calls between WiFi and GSM. And as you can see here there are now many UMA handsets. UMA is great in the States because mobile coverage is so poor. With an @home router from T Mobile you achieve the same as with a Femtocell, you at least have coverage at home. On top of that you get all the calling you can eat fixed and mobile for $10 per month out of the same WiFi router. Pretty good. But UMA is not only developing in the States. Orange has a million UMA subs and here´s a great presentation in French about their service (don´t be intimidated, the graphics are great). Other operators with UMA-based offers are TeliaSonera in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, NetCom in Norway, ONO in Spain, Fido and Rogers in Canada.
But neither T Mobile nor France Telecom have copied the Fon model. If the T Mobile or Orange WiFi routers came with 2 SSIDs or were Foneras which already come with 2SSIDs and global roaming, their services would make much more sense and sell better. Then you could go around with your phone and connect to any Orange router or any T Mobile router and not just yours. We will at Fon try to contact T Mobile and France Telecom to try to team up as successfully as we did with BT in BTFon as well as other operators. But as laptops shrink and handsets grow and both converge into little data hog devices like the iPhones WiFi becomes the least expensive solution to the problem of how to satisfy consumers who want movies and music but don´t want to pay more than 30 dollars/20 euros per month for mobile data.
As things stand I see Fon as a great potential partner for an MVNO who is paying a Vodafone say a fortune for their minutes and making tiny margins, because with Fon this MVNO can make higher margins when the calls go over WiFi. The margins at T Mobile btw are great because when you use your own WiFi you are paying them the same rate as when you use their expensive network.
Fon is also a great potential partner for a 3G operator who finds itself more and more selling handsets that stream movies, games, tv, music, and are very demanding on their networks. Indeed the iPhone does not let you buy from iTunes over 3G but only for WiFi. I find this remarkable since when you buy from iTunes you are paying! It says a lot about the cost of downloading heavy files like TV series over 3G networks. Again UMA is important here as well.
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