Nokia Finds U.S. Distributors For Dual-Mode Business Phones - InformationWeek

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Nokia Finds U.S. Distributors For Dual-Mode Business Phones

New Eseries business smartphone is poised to break through the U.S. Wi-Fi phone logjam.

Nokia, which has been unable to sell a combination Wi-Fi and cellular phone to U.S. businesses, expects to announce several major distributors in a couple of weeks.

The handset maker has been selling dual-mode phones in Europe without a hitch. But when Cingular introduced the E61 in the United States last fall, Wi-Fi support was dropped.

It's well known that Wi-Fi, a common form of wireless access for anybody with a notebook, has been impossible to reach with most cell phones because carriers are reluctant to support technology that competes with their own networks.

Nokia is reticent to discuss why it has taken so long to launch Wi-Fi-enabled phones in the United States, but acknowledges it hasn't been a favorite among carriers, which sell about 90% of the mobile phones in this country. "Wireless networking certainly creates uncertainty from a mobile operator's point of view," David Dorosin, director of marketing for security and mobile connectivity at Nokia, told InformationWeek Wednesday at Interop in Las Vegas.

Nevertheless, the company apparently has broken the logjam and plans to announce in a couple of weeks several major distributors that will sell the phones to businesses. Dorosin won't say who they are or how many, but it's likely they could include carriers.

Nokia's Wi-Fi support is all about connecting the mobile phone to a large company's PBX system while employees are on campus. The company claims most workers spend only about half their time at their desks, so they can sometimes be difficult to find. By connecting their mobile phones to the telephone system, workers can essentially carry their desk phones around with them and have access to the same functionality, such as transferring calls or participating in conference calls.

Nokia makes this possible through the Intellisync software it developed for its Eseries devices. The application works in conjunction with third-party technology that connects mobile phones to an IP PBX system. Companies using an older PBX system will need a gateway to make the connection.

Nokia has partnerships with Alcatel-Lucent and Avaya and announced one with Cisco Systems at Interop. The latter is particularly important for Nokia to reach U.S. businesses.

The retail price of the Eseries business smartphones is expected to range between $400 and $500 each.

One feature lacking from the Nokia phones will be what the industry calls "seamless mobility," which allows the phone to automatically switch from Wi-Fi to a cellular network without any interruption in the phone call.

Motorola said at the show that it's testing such a phone, but wouldn't say when it would become available.

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