3GSM show highlights VoIP trend

Reduced telephony costs, dual-mode handsets, wireless broadband and enterprise mobility share the spotlight at the 3GSM conference

Last week's annual 3GSM mobile technology conference in Barcelona showcased the latest wireless services, handsets, applications and infrastructure.

Hosted by the GSM Association, the trade show included equipment that can help users lower their mobile call costs, and products such as the latest Blackberry handheld phone and Windows Mobile 6 operating system.

Also hot at the 3GSM conference were mobile voice over IP (VoIP) clients, handsets with integrated satellite navigation technology, and dual-mode handsets that support both mobile and Wi-Fi wireless networking technologies in order to lower call costs.

The show also exhibited technology that promised mobile telephony cost reductions by replacing traditional telephony equipment with IP-based voice/data platforms that have integrated mobile phones. One example came from Private Mobile Networks (PMN), which has developed IT equipment that will lower mobile phone call costs made within an office building.

PMN launched a general packet radio service (GPRS) based system that allows users to route standard GSM mobile calls through a local, lower-cost network. It uses Private Mobile Exchange (PMX), a platform that enables mobile phones to become part of a corporate voice network so long as they remain in the vicinity of the workplace.

This means mobile phones can be used to make calls from the workplace for the same cost as calling from an internal telephone extension, said PMN.

"The inclusion of GPRS in PMX will allow our customers to take advantage of the existing corporate IP infrastructure for mobile voice and mobile data without incurring mobile operator data charges when within range of a private mobile network," said Dean Parsons, operations director for PMN.

"Cost control is one aspect, but we are also in discussion with a potential customer who requires a private GPRS network as a secure network for data transfer of business-related information around a large campus site."

Meanwhile, Nokia launched the latest version of its mobile enterprise mobility system, Intellisync Mobile Suite 8.0. The product enable users to synchronise fully their mobile devices to their office-based applications. Telecom Italia, IBM, LayerOne and Novell are among the providers selling the system to enterprises.

The latest version comes with a wider choice of deployment options - behind a firewall or hosted - and support for an increased number of mobile devices, whether Windows, Symbian or Palm driven.

Nokia's rival Ericsson launched a version of its Enterprise Mobility Gateway, an integrated communications platform for network operators and large enterprises.

Ericsson said the system would initially provide mobile voice and data services, integrating fully into a corporate communications network that uses 2G/3G mobile devices as well as dual-mode mobile/Wi-Fi devices. The platform also supports IP-based phone calls.

Joe McGarvey, senior analyst at consultancy Current Analysis, said Ericcson's move "highlights a requirement - namely, to extend enterprise-class communications and collaboration features to mobile users".

Mobile Linux was also under the spotlight at the 3GSM conference. Software supplier Access released product development kits for licensees in an attempt to boost the growth of mobile Linux.

In 2005 Access bought software supplier PalmSource, which developed the Palm OS mobile platform. The product development kit includes a Linux reference kernel, application development kit, reference drivers, documentation and a set of open source Eclipse development tools.

"The Access Linux Platform software has been designed from day one specifically for mobile phones and converged devices," said Tomihisa Kamada, chief technology officer and co-founder of Access. "We believe this approach has enabled us to deliver an integrated, commercial-grade Linux-based platform."

Broadband wireless standards continue to develop, with one supplier, Proxim, announcing it has combined three wireless radio technologies in one product called Meshmax. Meshmax unites Wi-Fi mesh, Wi-Fi access and Wimax transport technologies and supports 3.5GHz and 5GHz Wimax, along with 5GHz 802.11 mesh and 2.4 GHz 802.11 access.

Peter Jarich, principal analyst for wireless infrastructure at Current Analysis, said that integrating Wimax directly into a mesh node was "compelling", and signified an industry trend that would ultimately lead to wireless standards being more interoperable.

"In an attempt to build its mesh and Wimax businesses, the integration of Wimax into a unified node is nothing more than logical. Competitors - BelAir, AirSpan, Alvarion - are promising similar capabilities," said Jarich.


Mobile for business consumption

The 3GSM conference would not be the same without a flood of new mobile products, many of which appeal to consumers and senior business executives alike.

Among the stands, Samsung Electronics launched the X820, one of the world's thinnest mobile phones at just 5.9mm thick, and the latest Blackberry device was also unveiled.

Research in Motion's BlackBerry 8800 has adopted some of the features of its consumer version the BlackBerry Pearl, such as a media player and a microSD expandable memory slot for music and videos.

The 8800 has a Qwerty keyboard and a trackball screen navigation system and was its slimmest corporate design yet, said RIM.

The Blackberry 8800 also has in-built GPS software and Bluetooth 2.0 for use with wireless headsets.

"Senior managers are managing their lives around Blackberry," said one IT manager at the conference. He added that in his organisation, which uses 25 Blackberry devices, the Blackberry Enterprise Server had become a critical application.

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