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September 21, 2006

ABI: Dual-Mode Handset Shipments Will Top 300 Million in 2011

Chalk one up to the potential of fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) technology: in a new report out today, ABI Research predicted that worldwide shipments of dual mode (cellular and VoIP over WiFi (News - Alert)) handsets will exceed 300 million during 2011.

However, ABI warned that the arrival of femtocell access points—which ABI describes as “small cellular base stations designed for use in residential or corporate environments”—near the end of the forecast period may disrupt the market.
Femtocell access points, like WiFi access points, allow customers to wirelessly utilize their home broadband connection for voice. Femtocell technology may be more appealing to service providers because it offers greater network efficiency, less churn, improved wireless coverage, and the abilities to shape data usage patterns of subscribers and build platforms for fixed-mobile convergence services, ABI said.
“As frequency reuse issues are resolved, femtocells will provide some counterbalance to the trend towards dual-mode handsets,” said ABI analyst Philip Solis, in a statement. “Some operators now believe that they don't need to subsidize more expensive Wi-Fi-enabled handsets; they can use the handsets they have, and put femtocells in the home.”

While femtocell may slow down the VoWiFi market, ABI said that Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) technology is moving forward anyway.
“It's all about who controls the customer,” Solis said. “Mobile operators can use UMA to keep the customers who want to use cheaper wireline minutes. It's good for the end-user and it's good for the operator, because it uses the customer's own broadband connection to backhaul the traffic to the core network.”

Solis predicts that, among the 300 million dual-mode handsets projected, the majority will be based on the 802.11n protocol.
“Cellular handset vendors have made sure that their voices have been heard in the 802.11n standards process, so they are getting all the optional features that they want,” Solis explained.
WiFi functionality was first introduced in smartphones, ABI said, but the development of UMA and SIP means that this new mode soon will become available with “feature” or “enhanced” phones. Operators, the research firm noted, are most interested in UMA while telcos are championing SIP.

Mae Kowalke previously wrote for Cleveland Magazine in Ohio and The Burlington Free Press in Vermont. To see more of her articles, please visit Mae Kowalke’s columnist page.


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