Verizon Wireless has a WiFi strategy. CTO Dick Lynch told me during last week's CTIA show that the operator has plans in place to eventually allow its customers to roam off the EV-DO/CDMA network onto WiFi, but only in the home or business. Verizon is not revealing when. Certainly in-building coverage has been a thorn in all carriers' sides, and by some estimates mobile usage happens about 30 percent of the time at home. Voice over WiFi is significantly less expensive for operators than spending on in-building coverage where usage may never recoup the costs involved. According to statistics from Kineto, the inventor of UMA, offering a much lower in-home calling plan over WiFi, operators could easily see 50 percent to 100 percent increases in the minutes used.
So we have the economic incentive for using voice over WiFi in the home, but what about public hotspots? That is something Verizon Wireless is not supporting and hasn't for a couple of years now. The CDMA carrier launched public WiFi service in 2003 with 1,000 hotspots, all of which were delivered through partnerships; but it decreased its WiFi footprint by 2004, citing for one a lack of consistent quality of service and limited coverage. And this past summer, Verizon decided to phase out its WiFi hotspot network in New York City and rely on Verizon Wireless to accelerate its deployment of EV-DO around the city. Verizon definitely subscribes to the notion that you don't need WiFi hotspots when there's already EV-DO/CDMA coverage.
It will be interesting to see if other operators feel the same way. (T-Mobile, of course, will utilize all of the hotspots it owns.) Throw public hotspots in the mix of the network and the complexity of managing the entire quality of experience for the customer grows exponentially, especially with varying QoS and potential interference issues persistent in various hotspot locations. It doesn't seem WiFi hotspots do much to help extend 3G services since they are basically in the same metro areas. But there certainly has to be some strategic hotspot areas that are in carriers' best interests to allow WiFi roaming.
Here's another interesting tidbit from last week's show: Remember when Kyocera phones were blowing up because people were unwittingly using counterfeit batteries? Kyocera believes it has finally developed a technology to combat the growing problem of fake batteries. So far special stickers and tags haven't done the trick. Instead, Kyocera has developed technology called Active Logic that is built into the phone and gives a user a warning when he or she installs a counterfeit battery. The user can power the phone with the battery but when it's time to recharge it, Active Logic technology simply won't allow the battery to recharge, rendering the battery useless. Kyocera wants to patent the technology to other handset vendors. - Lynnette