Share |

RIM re-joins the Wi-Fi Calling party

So, the dust has settled after CES and now the cellular industry enter the ‘no man’s land’ limbo period after Las Vegas and before the start of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Tradition has it that the show straddles Valentine’s Day, however this year, things have been pushed back to the end of the month – great news for most MWC veterans, not because we are all hopeless romantics, but more because our natural body clocks are tuned to a mid-Feb start, so we’re gaining an extra two weeks prep time!

Those extra two weeks are going to come in very handy for the PR team over at RIM who will be thankful they’ve got some additional time to bring new CEO Thorsten Heins up to speed. I think it is fair comment to say Heins has a monumental task ahead of him, monumental but not impossible.

One of the first things Heins will need to get up to speed with is recent upgrade to RIM’s OS announced at CES, a key component of which was the reintroduction of Wi-Fi Calling. RIM first added the service in 2010, a few years after acquiring Ascendant Systems and its UMA tech. The Canadian smartphone giant had been struggling to find a way to make the solution relevant for a while – Wi-Fi Calling with compatriot Rogers Wireless and south of the border T-Mobile USA, made the solution not only relevant, but compelling.

For some unspoken reason, RIM removed the Wi-Fi Calling functionality, possibly a symptom of the firm’s general malaise. But its reintroduction as part of the new OS suggests strongly that its removal did not go unnoticed.

In a way, RIM’s Wi-Fi wake-up call is bad news for Kineto. Our app sits on Android devices, and so the fact the RIM has made its devices more compelling means our Android partners have a stronger competitor. But, looking at things more positively, the reintroduction goes a long way to affirm that what we’re offering is in strong demand.

With both Android and RIM offering Wi-Fi Calling, the stage is set for iOS and WP7. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if WP made the leap soon having seen this comment from a T-Mobile USA rep on an official support forum: “Yep we definitely want wifi calling on the WP operating system due to the fact that we know the demand is out there, but there are technical and cost barriers to making it happen and for a number of reasons it’s not something that has occurred...yet.”

Apple is sure to follow suit. There are absolutely loads of downloadable OTT VoIP clients on the market. These solutions are fantastic of course, but there are some obvious hurdles to uptake – not least of which are the three supporting pillars of any successful telecoms service; interoperability, ease of use and security.

If any company in the world understands the importance of offering those three key elements, it is Apple. If it doesn’t have a decent UMA play, it stands to lose out, particularly as more and more operators look towards Wi-Fi offload as a network congestion management tool in the RAN.

Whether or not Wi-Fi calling will be enough to save RIM remains to be seen. The firm has enjoyed a roller-coaster existence. It’s too big to go down surely, mind you, they said that about the Titanic.