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Mitsubishi beats Cisco to market with WLAN phone

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Accepted wisdom is that people will always need ordinary mobile phones "because voice over Internet isn't acceptable quality." IP Talk, in Japan, reckons this is nonsense: its new WiFi phone is designed for hotspots, uses voice-over-IP - and also offers Web browsing and email.

IP Talk is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Electric, and its WiFi phone is conservative, using just standard 802.11b WiFi hotspots, according to a local paper in Japan.

The launch means that Mitsubishi has beaten Cisco to market; the Cisco WiFi phone will also appear this month, in Japan.

A comment from Microsoft's Mobility department said that despite cost savings, most people in the phone business didn't expect the system to be popular. "The quality of service, digitising voice and sending packets over the Internet using WiFi, is simply not good enough," suggested one senior Mobility executive at Barcelona TechEd.

But the advantage of using the internet is that the cost of a call, anywhere, is the same, no matter how long you talk. Mitsubishi and Cisco are betting that a call at zero incremental cost will attract a lot of users, especially those who are WiFi equipped at home.

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