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Archive for the ‘Nokia’ Category

Dual Mode Phone Trends Update 4

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

We are half way through the year, so it’s time for another look at Wi-Fi phone certifications. Three things jump out this time. First, a leap in the number of Wi-Fi phone models in the second quarter of 2010. Second, the arrival of 802.11n in handsets, and third Samsung’s market-leading commitment to 802.11n. According to Rethink Wireless “Samsung’s share of the smartphone market was only about 5% in Q1 but it aims to increase this to almost 15% by year end.” Samsung Wi-Fi-certified a total of 73 dual mode phones in the first six months of 2010, three times as many as second place LG with 23. In the 11n category, Samsung’s lead was even more dominating: its 40 certifications were ten times either of the second place OEMs.

Here is a chart of dual mode phones certified with the Wi-Fi Alliance from 2008 to June 30th 2010. We usually do this chart stacked, but side-by-side gives a clearer comparison between feature phones and smart phones. Note that up to the middle of 2009, smart phones outpaced feature phones, but then it switched. This is a natural progression of Wi-Fi into the mass market, but may also be exaggerated by a quirk of reporting: of HTC’s 17 certifications in the first half of 2010, it only categorized one as a smart phone.
Dual mode phones by quarter 2008-2010

The chart below shows the growth of 802.11n. It starts in January 2010 because only one 11n phone was certified in 2009, at the end of December. As you can see, the growth is strong. I anticipate that practically all new dual mode phone certifications will be for 802.11n by the end of 2010.

802.11n phones 2010 by month

Below is the same chart sliced by manufacturer instead of by month. The iPhone is missing because it wasn’t certified until July, and the iPad is missing because it’s not a phone. With only one 802.11n phone, Nokia has become a technology laggard, at least in this respect. The RIM Pearl 8100/8105 certifications are the only ones with STBC, an important feature for phones because it improves rate at distance. All the major chips (except those from TI) support STBC, so the phone OEMs must be either leaving it disabled or just not bothering to certify for it.

802.11n phones 2010 by manufacturer

Dual mode phone trends update 3

Monday, October 5th, 2009

I last looked at dual mode phone certifications on the Wi-Fi Alliance website almost a year ago.

Here’s what has happened since, through the first three quarters of 2009:
Wi-Fi Alliance Dual-Mode Phone Certifications 2005-2009

There are still no certifications for 802.11 draft n, and almost none for 802.11a.

Here’s another breakdown, by manufacturer and year. Click on the chart to get a bigger image. This shows that the Wi-Fi enthusiasts have been pretty constant over the years: Nokia, HTC, Motorola and Samsung. Then more recently SonyEricsson and LG. Note that the 2009 figures are only through Q3, so the growth is even more impressive than it seems from this chart.
Wi-Fi Alliance Dual-Mode Phone Certifications 2005-2009 by OEM

The all-time champion is Samsung, with a total of 84 phone models certified for Wi-Fi, followed by Nokia with 68, then HTC with 54. This changes if you look just at smartphones, where Nokia has 61 total certifications to HTC’s 34 and Samsung’s 29.

Nokia no longer the only VoWi-Fi friendly phone maker

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Until now, Nokia has been top of the heap in the category of VoIP-friendliness. When I spoke with Richard Watson, CTO of DiVitas, last year in the course of my test drive of the DiVitas system, he pointed out that dual-mode phones are not normally VoIP-friendly. At that time the only phone he recommended was the Nokia E71. There are several reasons for this, primarily the treatment of the voice path and the ease of integration of the VoIP software with the built-in phone software user interfaces. Since then, DiVitas has been working closely with Samsung, and now Richard says several Samsung phones are well suited to Voice over Wi-Fi. Let’s hope this shakes the other phone OEMs loose and gets them working on improving Voice over Wi-Fi performance.

DiVitas partners with Avaya

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Last week Avaya announced that it has chosen DiVitas as its preferred partner for mobile unified communications (UC). The companies will do joint marketing and cross-training of their sales forces in a reference sale mode. This is huge for DiVitas because it opens Avaya’s distribution channel to it. According to Phil Klotzkin, Avaya’s senior manager for UC, this channel supplies 20% of the business phone systems world-wide.

The DiVitas solution plugs a small but important gap in Avaya’s product line. Avaya already has a mobile unified communications solution, called one-X Mobile.

One-X Mobile extends PBX features to cell phones, notably the ability to give out a single number that rings on both your cell phone and your desk phone; the ability to do PBX-related actions like 4 digit dialing and transfers; visual voicemail; and the ability to move a call in progress between the cell-phone and the desk phone.

The DiVitas product offers a comparable solution set, but goes beyond one-X Mobile with Wi-Fi voice and a range of social networking features including IM and Presence. Because it uses Wi-Fi, the DiVitas solution requires a dual-mode handset. Virtually all new smartphones are dual-mode, but with the exception of Nokia’s Eseries and Nseries, few of them are well suited to voice over Wi-Fi. One-X Mobile uses the cellular voice channel rather than Wi-Fi, so it runs on a wide variety of phones.

For IM related features both DiVitas and Avaya’s desktop Integrated Presence Server use open source Jabber software. The two will be integrated with each other by the end of the year.

DiVitas/Avaya system diagram

For now the DiVitas handset software (client) is not integrated with the one-X Mobile handset software – the customer will choose one or the other for each user. The DiVitas client and the one-X Mobile client will each retain their different look and feel, and the one-X Mobile client will continue to run on single-mode phones and the DiVitas client on dual-mode.

In a recent interview, Klotzkin said that one-X Mobile is sufficient for most customers, but that there are a few for which dual-mode functionality is essential. Partnering with DiVitas enables Avaya to satisfy those customer needs. One such customer is CSX, the freight company. Some of its far-flung operations are in areas with no cellular coverage; Wi-Fi solves this problem. Avaya has been working with CSX on dual-mode solutions since 2004, when Avaya, Motorola and Proxim introduced the very first dual-mode system.

According to Vivek Khuller, CEO of DiVitas, “CSX has been working with Avaya since the earliest days of dual-mode telephony, and they are finally satisfied. It’s an important accomplishment for both our companies.”

Because the DiVitas solution uses smart-phones CSX gets a useful side benefit, namely that it can run proprietary application software on the phones, eliminating the need for its employees to carry a laptop. The other side benefit is that even in areas of cellular coverage the Wi-Fi connection can be used to save on cellular minutes.

So everybody gains. Avaya plugs a troublesome gap in its product line; DiVitas gets an excellent distribution channel; the Avaya channel adds a fully supported best-of-breed solution to its portfolio; and end users get the familiarity of Avaya with the handset technology of Nokia and the DiVitas software that weaves them together into a user-friendly package.

Skype’s SILK codec available royalty free to third parties

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

I wrote earlier about the need for royalty-free wideband codecs, and about a conversation with Jonathan Christensen about SILK, Skype’s new super-wideband codec.

This week Jonathan announced that Skype is releasing an SDK to let third parties integrate SILK with their products, and distribute it royalty free. This is very good news. It comes on top of Skype’s announcement that Nokia is putting the Skype client on some of its high end phones. If the Nokia deal includes SILK, and the platform exposes SILK to third party applications on the phones, SILK will quickly become the most widely used wideband codec for SIP as well as the most widely used wideband codec, period. That is, if the Nokia deal stands.

Polycom has been leading the wideband codec charge on deskphones, and it already co-brands a phone with Skype. It would make sense for Polycom to add SILK to its entire line of IP phones.

For network applications like voice, Metcalfe’s Law is like gravity. Skype has over 400 million users. If the royalty-free license has no catches, the wideband codec debate is history, at least until LTE brings AMR-WB to mass-market cell phones.

Linley Report on Mobile Connectivity Chips Released

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

I have been working for some time on a report about mobile connectivity chips. This is an interesting market, one that is so hot that it is actually going to continue to grow in 2009 as the overall cell phone market declines by 10%.

The term “connectivity” denotes all the radios in a cell phone that are not cellular radios. There are a lot of them. The main ones are Bluetooth, FM radio, GPS and Wi-Fi. Others beginning to appear in handsets are TV and NFC. Further out in time are 60 GHz and White Spaces radios.

The cell phone market deals in massive volumes – about 1.2 billion handsets were sold in 2008. It also has some stringent requirements. The market demands chips that are small, cheap, battery-life conserving and easy to design-in. These considerations have driven chip vendors to combine multiple connectivity radios onto single chips. The first combo chips were Bluetooth plus FM. Then came Bluetooth plus FM plus Wi-Fi then most recently Bluetooth plus FM plus GPS.

Because the market is so big, the competition is intense. The 2008 leaders in Bluetooth were Broadcom and CSR; in Wi-Fi TI, ST-Ericsson and Marvell; in GPS TI and Infineon; and in FM ST-Ericsson and Silicon Labs.

These vendors are leap-frogging each other on performance and features. 2009 will see major changes in market share as some vendors fail to refresh their old product lines, others refresh their product lines but with inadequate products, and new entrants come in with better solutions.

Skype on Nokia phones. Video telephony for the masses?

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

At the end of 2008 there were 415 million broadband subscribers world-wide, and Skype claimed 405 million subscribers after a 47% year-on-year growth. So Skype must be topping out, right?

Perhaps not. At the end of 2008 there were 4 billion mobile phone users. Ten times as many as fixed broadband, and four times as many as PCs. Skype just announced that Nokia will be putting Skype on some of its high end phones. If the idea spreads Skype will still have plenty of room to grow.

But there is bigger news hidden here. Video telephony has been just around the corner for about 50 years. This announcement may soon make it commonplace.

I have written before about Skype sound quality, but Skype’s video capabilities also kick the competition. My children make regular intercontinental Skype video calls to their grandmother, and both the sound and video quality are generally excellent now that I have discarded my Linksys router and got an Apple Airport Extreme. If the numbers don’t convince you that Skype video calling is perfectly mainstream, perhaps Oprah will.

The phone mentioned by Nokia as the first to have Skype built in is the N97. Almost all of Nokia’s high end smart phones (the Eseries and Nseries) have Wi-Fi, and many (including the N97) have a “secondary camera” on the same side as the screen for use in video calling. Video calling is supported by the SIP soft-phone software that Nokia puts in almost all these phones, but SIP VoIP is nowhere compared to Skype. So the news that Nokia will be loading Skype onto some of these phones is tantalizing. The existing base of Skype users on PCs will bestow a massive network effect on Skype video calls from Nokia handsets.

The Wi-Fi aspect will help users to get around the carriers’ resistance, which in any case may be waning if the Skype interview linked above is correct.

A not so perfect Storm

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

The Verizon Storm may be heading for failure in more than one way. A raft of reviewers, led by David Pogue of the New York Times are trashing its usability. This means that even with the marketing might of Verizon behind it it may not fulfill its goal of being a bulwark against the iPhone in the enterprise.

But the Storm was an experiment in another way by Verizon. The other three major American mobile network operators have capitulated to Wi-Fi in smartphones. Against the new conventional wisdom, Verizon decided to launch a new flagship smartphone without Wi-Fi. The Storm looks like a trial balloon to see whether Wi-Fi is optional in modern smartphones. If the Storm is a success, it will demonstrate that it is possible to have credible business smartphones without Wi-Fi. But if it turns out to be a flop because of other factors, it will not be a proof point for Wi-Fi either way.

But Wi-Fi is a closed issue by now for all the network operators, perhaps even including Verizon. Phones have lead times of the order of a year or so, and controversies active back then may now be resolved. Verizon covered its bets by launching three other smartphones around the same time as the Storm, all with Wi-Fi (HTC Touch Pro, Samsung Omnia, Samsung Saga).

Before its launch, AT&T hoped that the iPhone would stimulate use of the cellular data network. It succeeded in this, so far beyond AT&T’s hopes that it revealed a potential problem with the concept of 3G (and 4G) data. The network slows to a crawl if enough subscribers use data intensively in small areas like airports and conferences. Mobile network operators used to fear that if phones had Wi-Fi subscribers would use it instead of the cellular data network, causing a revenue leak. AT&T solved that problem with the iPhone by making a subscription to the data service obligatory. T-Mobile followed suit with the Google phone. So no revenue leak. With the data subscription in hand, Wi-Fi is a good thing for the network operators because it offloads the 3G network. In residences and businesses all the data that goes through Wi-Fi is a reduction in the potential load on the network. In other words, a savings in infrastructure investment, which translates to profit. This may be some of the thinking behind AT&T’s recent acquisition of Wayport. The bandwidth acquired with Wayport offloads the AT&T network relatively cheaply. AT&T’s enthusiasm for Wi-Fi is such that it is selling some new Wi-Fi phones without requiring a data subscription.

The enterprise market is one that mobile network operators have long neglected. It is small relative to the consumer market, and harder to fit into a one-size-fits-all model. Even so, in these times of scraping for revenue in every corner, and with the steady rise of the Blackberry, the network operators are taking a serious look at the enterprise market.

The device manufacturers are way ahead of the network operators on this issue: the iPhone now comes with a lot of enterprise readiness Kool-Aid; Windows Mobile makes manageability representations, as does Nokia with its Eseries handsets. RIM, the current king of the enterprise smartphone vendors also pitches its IT-friendliness.

Wi-Fi in smartphones has benefits and drawbacks for enterprises. One benefit is that you have another smart device on the corporate LAN to enhance productivity. A drawback is that you have another smart device on the corporate LAN ripe for viruses and other security breaches. But that issue is mitigated to some extent if smartphones don’t have Wi-Fi. So it’s arguable that the Storm may be more enterprise-friendly as a result of its lack of Wi-Fi. Again, if the Storm becomes a hit in enterprises that argument will turn out to hold water. If the Storm is a flop for other reasons, we still won’t know, and it will have failed as a trial balloon for Wi-Fi-less enterprise smartphones.

DiVitas Test Drive

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Divitas loaned me a Nokia E71 to try out with their mobile unified communications solution hosted by Sawtel. It’s a very nice phone – looks good, feels good in the hand. It’s also the best-sounding cell phone experience I have ever had, and that’s thanks to DiVitas. All cellular service providers use technology that sacrifices sound quality for increased carrying capacity. By squeezing down the bandwidth used by a call they can fit more calls into each cell, and get by with fewer cell towers, saving money. The standard codec around most of the world is GSM, and it’s the reason that cell calls can never sound as good as landline calls.

But DiVitas uses a Wi-Fi connection for your calls, and they have chosen to use the standard land-line codec, G.711. The effect is startling – a little disorienting even; we are so used to the horrible GSM codec that when a cell phone sounds as good as a land-line the subjective illusion is that it sounds much better.

This is one of the reasons that the type of voice over Wi-Fi solution offered by DiVitas is way better than the one offered by the telco industry, called UMA. UMA uses the GSM codec even over Wi-Fi connections.

But DiVitas didn’t stop with the sound quality. DiVitas has done an excellent job in several other technical areas. The fundamental technology of fixed mobile convergence is the ability to hand off a call in progress from the cellular network to the Wi-Fi network and vice versa.

This is very challenging, and it is an area where DiVitas claims to lead. So the first thing I did after turning on the phone was to make a call to check it out. I didn’t need to look at the on-screen indicator to know that the call was running over my office Wi-Fi network. The sound quality (did I mention this before?) was superb. So I walked out of range of the WLAN and sure enough the call handed over to the cellular network without dropping. There was a brief interlude of music and the call continued. Going back into the WLAN coverage area the handoff was completely seamless, perceptible only by the improvement in call quality as it moved from the cellular to the WLAN network.

Superior sound quality and seamless handover, while impressive to an engineer who knows what’s entailed, are not really sexy to regular users – it’s just a phone behaving like you would expect. DiVitas takes it to the next level by overcoming another technical challenge, delivering a polished, well thought-through, feature rich and well integrated user interface on the phone.

Actually, the DiVitas software client for the handset overcomes two challenges. The technical challenge of integration with the phone’s native software environment, and the design challenges of usability and usefulness. User interfaces are a matter of personal taste; the best are those that don’t get in the way of doing what you want. I disappointed the people at DiVitas by discarding their carefully written instructions and forging ahead by trial and error. Considering the potential consequences of this behavior I got away lightly. Everything worked the way I expected it to, and there were some nice touches, including Skype-like presence icons by the names in the directory.
While we’re on the topic of the directory, one thing that jumps out is the four digit phone numbers.

This is an indicator of yet another set of technical challenges that DiVitas has overcome to deliver their solution, namely integration with the corporate PBX, and presentation of the PBX features through the cell-phone user interface. DiVitas users will actually get a superior experience of the PBX through their cell phone compared to their desk phone. This is because the DiVitas software has a computer industry heritage rather than a telco heritage; it takes advantage of the nice big color screen with features like the presence icons and voice mail presented in an on-screen list like on the iPhone.

So the big news here is that a product has finally caught up with the hype around enterprise Mobile Unified Communications. All my criticisms (DiVitas got an earful) are nitpicking. For me the system worked as advertised, and that’s saying a lot.

Cisco’s Motion Announcement

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Cisco’s Motion announcement on May 28th was huge for enterprise mobility. It defined some new terms which we will be hearing a lot: “Cisco Motion,” “Mobility Services Architecture” and “Mobility Services Engine.” Cisco Motion is the name of the “vision.” The Mobility Services Engine 3350 is a $20,000 appliance that embodies the Mobility Services Architecture, which is a part of Cisco’s Service Oriented Network Architecture.

Cisco has published a lot of useful information about these new products. A good place to start is the launch webinar, which includes an informative Powerpoint presentation. The Mobility Services Architecture is described in a white paper. There are two press releases: a conventional press release consisting of written words, and a “social media release” consisting of links to YouTube clips and podcasts.

What we’re doing here is abstracting the network control element of the architecture and the services and application integration piece. This reflects what we have been talking about for the last 2 plus years around the Services Oriented Network Architecture. It’s about how we can drive new capabilities into the network, that can be married up with a host of different applications and turned into a solution for our customers. It’s not just applications running over the network. Increasingly with this architecture, it is about applications running “with” the network.

Ben Gibson, Senior Director Mobility Solutions, Cisco Systems

Cisco describes the MSE as a “platform for partnering,” the idea being that it exposes network-level information through an open application programming interface (API) to applications delivered by independent software vendors (ISVs).

Adding wirelessness to the IP world generates network-layer information that can be useful to applications, notably information about the location of known devices, and the intrusion of unknown devices. The MSE orders that information and presents it through the API.

Cisco Motion also addresses some downsides of mobility. Adding mobility to the IT world brings a lot of new headaches:

  • There are multiple network types (currently cellular and Wi-Fi, later WiMAX)
  • There is a profusion of new device types (currently smart phones) which must be managed and tracked
  • There is a wave of innovation in consumer applications. Employees are demanding these applications in the enterprise environment.
  • Mobility also complicates compliance with data confidentiality regulations like PCI and HIPAA.

So far Cisco has identified four categories of application that can run on the MSE: Context-Aware applications, Wireless Intrusion Prevention Systems, Client Management and Intelligent Roaming.

Context Aware Applications
“Context Aware applications” seems to be Cisco’s term for applications that do asset tracking. Cisco is partnering with ISVs in both horizontal and vertical markets. These ISVs are OAT, Intellidot, Aeroscout, Pango/Innerwireless and Airetrak. The Context-Aware software is scheduled to ship in June 2008.

Adaptive Wireless Intrusion Prevention Systems

Overlay wireless intrusion prevention systems add devices to monitor wireless traffic looking for rogue access points and clients. The innovation here appears to be that the MSE exposes information from the access points and wireless controllers that eliminates the need for these overlay devices. IPS software running on the MSE can substitute for the overlay IPS, while yielding equivalent depth of reporting and features. A further benefit of running the IPS over the MSE API is that the same software will be able to handle future wireless networks in addition to Wi-Fi. The Adaptive WIPS software is scheduled to ship in the second half of 2008.

Mobile Intelligent Roaming

This is enterprise Fixed-Mobile Convergence. The MSE isn’t a mobility controller; it issues an event up through the API when it determines that the Wi-Fi network needs to hand the call off to the cellular network. This event is handled by mobility controller software from an ISV. Cisco’s launch partners for this are Nokia for phones, and Agito on the mobility controller side. The Mobile Intelligent Roaming software is scheduled to ship in the second half of 2008.

Secure Client Manager

This works with Cisco’s 802.1X and CCX products. Cisco estimates that 80% of IT’s wireless and mobility effort goes to client troubleshooting and security provisioning. The Secure Client Manager will help mitigate this problem for the imminent wave of mobile devices. The Secure Client Manager is scheduled to ship in the first half of 2009.

Unified Wireless Network Software

Cisco Motion requires a new software load for the access points and WLAN controllers: the Cisco Unified Wireless Network Software Release 5.1, which shipped in May 2008.