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New Mobile-Access Spec Gets Nod At Supercomm

Alcatel and Nokia are going to use the new Unlicensed Mobile Access spec to enable the delivery of phone calls to converged handsets supporting both cellular and Wi-Fi networks.
LONDON — The Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) standard that is driving converged devices and services got a major boost this week when equipment makers Alcatel and Nokia announced initiatives to drive the specification at Supercomm in Chicago.

Both the French and Finnish vendors said they would integrate the Wi-Fi version of UMA so that operators can deliver phone calls to converged handsets capable of handling both cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

Jointly developed by a long list of major carriers and vendors, the UMA specifications open the door to devices that can automatically switch both voice and data calls from a cellular to an Internet Protocol network on the fly, in a manner transparent to users.

The technology works between GSM/GPRS wide-area networks and wireless local-area networks in the unlicensed band, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

British Telecom uses the Bluetooth version of the UMA specification in its groundbreaking Bluephone project, but many proponents of UMA believe the Wi-Fi version will ultimately become the more useful.

Alcatel said it would integrate UMA control functionality into its Spatial Wireless softswitch and server range.

The move means Alcatel will have to make tweaks to its mobile architecture since the UMA add-on will obviate the need for a separate management element in the network.

Before coming up with its own solution, Alcatel worked with Kineto Wireless to bring cellular/Wi-Fi convergence to its carrier customers. Kineto is one of the leading companies leading the effort to get UMA deployed in carrier equipment.

Nokia demonstrated at Supercomm an upgraded version of its MSC network controller to support UMA and said Finnish operator Saunalahti is already using this in trials of handsets capable of handling both cellular and Wi-Fi calls.

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