Nokia hopped onto the convergence phone bandwagon today with its Nokia 6301 handset which can handover a live cell phone call from a carrier's cellular network to a WiFi network. The ability to initiate or receive calls using a cell phone on a WiFi network could save wireless users a bundle when it comes to paying for talk minutes. Additionally, for anyone with a spotty cellular network coverage at home, routing calls over a WiFi network could mean better and expanded coverage.
Nokia says the phone will be available first in Europe later this year and didn't announce any plans to bring the phone to the U.S or elsewhere.
The special sauce in the Nokia 6301 is a technology called universal mobile access (UMA). It allows you to make calls over the Internet so long as WiFi or Bluetooth Internet access is available. When you move out of WiFi or Bluetooth range with the Nokia 6301 you automatically connect to a GSM cell phone network.
I Want My UMA!
Wireless carriers have been slow to embrace UMA technology because it could eat into its core business which is billing people for how long they talk on their networks. However, now that Nokia, the world's largest handset maker, is getting into the game it might not be long before we see more UMA phones Internationally. Right now the UMA handset and service picking's are slim.
T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home service allows you to switch from a T-Mobile network to a WiFi network when one is available. But T-Mobile throws in a few caveats. T-Mobile bills you for all the voice minutes you use when calls are initiated as cell phone and switch to WiFi network. The WiFi support costs an US$19.99 per month on top of a voice plan priced at US$39.99 or higher.
Hardly the kind of savings you'd hope with a service like this.
T-Mobile so far offers a choice of just two dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi phones for the service: the Samsung Electronics T709 and the Nokia 6136.
The recently announced BlackBerry 8820 also supports both cellular and Wi-Fi wireless networks. AT&T is currently the only carrier offering the phone to its customers here in the U.S. You can't, however, make voice-over-Wi-Fi calls on the device just yet. RIM says that this feature will be offered at the discretion of the carrier; AT&T says that the Wi-Fi capabilities on the 8820 are "data only" at this time.
Nokia 6301 Specs
Beyond dual WiFi and GSM support the Nokia 6301's specs are nothing to rave about. It sports a music player with support of FM radio, 2 megapixel camera, 30MB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot (128MB chip included). The Nokia 6301 has a talk-time of up to 3.5 hours and a standby time of up to 14 days.