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Qualcomm, Nortel Team On Dual-Mode Phone Service

The companies are working toward a technology to launch next year that allows mobile phones to seamlessly switch calls between cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

Nortel and Qualcomm on Monday said they completed testing an application that allows mobile phones to seamlessly switch calls between cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

The companies tested Nortel's IP Multimedia Subsystem-based Voice Call Continuity network application and Qualcomm's chipset that uses the IP Multimedia Subsystem and Voice Call Continuity device client. Both technologies are based on standards defined by the Third Generation Partnership Project organization.

The IP Multimedia Subsystem, or IMS for short, refers to a framework that service providers can put in their infrastructures to let cellular, Wi-Fi, wireline, and emerging technologies like WiMax work together. IMS is expected to enable fixed-mobile convergence where mobile devices with a dual-mode capability can automatically switch from an outdoor cellular network to a local, Wi-Fi network inside a building -- primarily for the purpose of saving money on cell phone minutes.

Nortel and Qualcomm claim their successful tests, conducted at Nortel's Ottawa research and development labs, are a major step toward the availability of so-called Voice Call Continuity-enabled mobile phones, which in turn, will help users reduce cell phone charges by switching phone calls between cellular and Wi-Fi networks. The companies promise to do this seamlessly, without interruptions, meaning users shouldn't experience a dropped call as their mobile phone switches.

In the future, users will be able to purchase dual-mode mobile phones that are VCC-ready and won't need to install any additional software or have them configured by service providers, the companies said.

"Because Nortel's VCC is based on IMS, it will allow operators to deploy more multimedia services compared to other [fixed-mobile convergence] solutions," said Alf Decardenas, general manager of Carrier Multimedia Networks at Nortel, in a statement.

Examples of such multimedia services include multi-player gaming, enterprise service integration, and interactive blogging delivered over a wireless network.

Nortel said it will make its VCC network application commercially available in the first quarter of next year. VCC-ready mobile phones are expected to become available from Qualcomm sometime in the middle of next year.

Service providers will be able to deploy VCC within their current networks or as they evolve to high-speed fourth-generation networks, including WiMax, Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB), or Long Term Evolution (LTE).

The tests come as Verizon last week disclosed plans to roll out its 4G mobile broadband network. The telecom said it is using LTE, while also adopting a common access platform with Vodafone to provide services worldwide based on the technology. LTE is an upgrade to High Speed Downlink Packet Access, a GSM implementation of a 3G cellular technology that is capable of providing speeds of up to 10 Mbps and global roaming.

AT&T, formerly Cingular, recently deployed IMS to enable fixed-mobile voice and other IP-based services such as video calling. Sprint said it's also still on track to deploy its 4G wireless technology, WiMax, despite ending an agreement last month with Clearwire to roll out the technology to 100 million people.

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