Nextel plans Wi-Fi phones

Mobile operator Nextel Communications is to begin trials of a phone that can be used on Wi-Fi wireless Lans and added that by...

Mobile operator Nextel Communications is to begin trials of a  phone that can be used on Wi-Fi wireless Lans and added that by next year it would offer a mobile phone with Motorola based on Microsoft's Windows Powered Smartphone platform.

The Smartphone device will support tri-band GSM/GPRS as well as Nextel's iDEN (Integrated Digital Enhanced Network) infrastructure, according to Barry West, executive vice-president and chief technology officer of Nextel.

The mobile operator provides advanced services to government and business clients. Its approach has helped it gain market share and maintain strong revenue and margins, executives said at the CTIA Wireless trade show.

Nextel and Motorola are also working on a mobile phone with integrated Wi-Fi wireless Lan capability, which will allow users to make calls over a home or office Wi-Fi network and use the same phone to call over the iDEN network while on the road, West said.

The phone could allow customers to replace a cordless phone or a wired PBX (private branch exchange) with a wireless Lan. A call initiated on the iDEN network would stay on that network when the user got to the office, but a call begun on the Wi-Fi network would be dropped once the user moved out of range.

Nextel also could work with providers of cable data services to send phone calls from the Wi-Fi network over the cable infrastructure instead of the traditional telecommunications network.

True handoffs of voice calls between Wi-Fi and mobile networks could pose big technology problems because Wi-Fi technology is designed to be inexpensive and relatively simple, West said. 

Mobile technologies each have built into them special standards to allow handoffs as users move around, and those specifications were not built in to the IEEE 802.11 standard on which Wi-Fi products are based.

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