Research firm In-Stat reports that there’s a substantial market niche for Wi-Fi enabled mobile phones:
A recent survey of US early adopters found that almost half of those respondents plan to replace their cell phones want Wi-Fi capability. To meet the growing demand, there is an avalanche of dual-mode phones in the pipeline. By the end of this year, the Wi-Fi Alliance will have certified more than 100 different models of Wi-Fi/cellular phones . . . widespread Wi-Fi deployment and the variety of Wi-Fi/cellular handsets offers Wi-Fi/Cellular based systems a significant head-start in the market,â€ says Allen Nogee, In-Stat Principal Analyst. â€œOther technologies, such as WiMAX and Ultra Wideband, are also poised to enter the handset market, but Wi-Fi fills a unique niche that WiMAX and UWB cannot match.â€
Here’s why people will be making more calls and accessing Internet applications on Wi-Fi phones:
– by the end of 2007, there will be more than 100 different models of Wi-Fi mobile phones (In-Stat Research);
– the Apple iPhone will drive innovation (and sales) of Wi-Fi mobile devices. It will change the wireless business;
– only 10% of mobile users in Europe use mobile Internet. The high price is the main barrier;
– the number of Wi-Fi networks just keeps growing all over the world and cities are setting up citywide Wi-Fi service.
I’ve been using Nokia’s Wi-Fi enabled N80i (read my review here) over the past six months. I downloaded Gizmo Project and Truphone onto the phone to avoid the horrible roaming charges imposed by my carrier, Orange Netherlands (acquired last week by T-Mobile). The phone’s Wi-Fi capability lets me make calls free of charge.
Although I have a data plan with Orange, I rarely use it. They charge 15 EUR per megabyte when I am outside the Netherlands. I’d be crazy to use it to upload and download files, browse the web or check email. It’s Wi-Fi again to the rescue. I certainly won’t be making the mistake that a friend made when she videoblogged the Le Web 3 event in Paris and got a 10,000 EUR bill from her mobile provider one month later.
T-Mobile’s dirty war against VOIP providers
So you can imagine my disgust when I heard that T-Mobile UK is messing around with Truphone. T-Mobile has refused to interconnect with Truphone so that T-Mobile customers making a call to Truphone’s number range (07978 8xxxxx) will not be connected. T-Mobile refuses to interconnect with operators offering VoIP as a matter of policy. Read all about T-Mobile’s plans to squish Truphone here.
The operators want to own the customer but as more devices and applications allow the customer to escape from the clutches of their bill-you-till-you-bleed walled gardens, they become desperate.
I am thinking of dumping my Orange subscription after T-Mobile acquired the company from Orange France. Unfortunately, it’s not as if the other providers have clean hands. All of them have at one point or another deprived their customers of choice (e.g. castrating Wi-Fi enabled mobile phones).