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UMA For VoIP - the next evolution

Updated on November 7, 2011

Integrating Wifi with Regular Calling

The latest developments in the wireless world involving bandwidth caps have already had a significant impact on the wireless landscape in the US. Android's latest operating system "Ice Cream Sandwich" now integrates an application which allows users to track their data usage across applications and even set upper limits for each. They can also specify whether these applications can work only on wifi or not.

But the Android market itself has a number of apps which do just this, reflecting a need for handset owners to be aware of the bits and btyes they're using. VoIP for example is going to be one of the services hardest hit by this. But technology has a way of overcoming the restrictions placed on it. Such has always been the case and the latest directions the industry is taking is no exception.

The hottest buzzword in the VoIP/Mobile world these days is UMA - Unlicensed Mobile Access. It basically allows IP networks to integrate with other WAN based systems such as the cell phone network we use ever day. It's an attempt by innovative businesses to do away with the need for relying on wireless Internet access provided by the carriers and instead utilize the mostly unused wifi Internet services that surround us all the time.

VoIP with UMA
VoIP with UMA

An End Run around the Carriers

There's no doubt that VoIP is a threat to traditional wireless carriers. Currently, even Google is afraid to go openly against them and integrate features such as SIP to SIP calling via its Google Voice service. This is one reason why wifi networks are such a huge threat.

UMA allows phones to seamlessly switch calls between local wifi connections and the regular phone network without requiring you to disconnect and reconnect. This is useful for circumstances where you're on a call inside your home and then move outside. Unfortunately, this magic seems to require some special hardware - so we'll simply have to wait for more modern phones to come out and support the UMA standard. But such phones will be met with hostility from mobile carriers.

Which is why Republic Wireless's offer to provide us with $20/month UMA enabled phones is such a breakthrough. Once people find out what is possible, they'll want one of their own and this will perhaps pressure manufactures to create their own UMA phones. All it requires is that first step - the first carrier who manages to cooperate with a scheme of this sort. And we're lucky that Sprint has stepped up to the plate and taken on that responsibility.

Business users of course have more strict requirements. Their business hosted VoIP systems will need to be more flexible than being restricted to just one carrier - not to mention the freedom to choose their own VoIP service. After all, maintaining uptime on full fledged HD voice IP servers isn't easy, but hopefully the competition will introduce more options to use UMA for businesses.


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