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Handset makers tout Wi-Fi, GSM roaming spec

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Fourteen mobile phone makers, telcos and others announced their intention to publish specifications that they claim will allow 802.11-equipped handsets to make calls via Wi-Fi hotspots.

Essentially it's all about roaming. The agreement should ensure that a handset within range of an WLAN access point can dial a phone number and be successfully patched through, irrespective of who owns the hotspot, its Internet connection and all the other elements in the chain along which the call is passed.

The specifications and the group behind them are called Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA). Yes, that use of 'unlicensed' does bring in other wireless technologies, including Bluetooth and, presumably, in due course UWB.

It's in no one industry player's interest not to ensure such scope for roaming, of course, so used have mobile phone users become used to making calls from one country to another, and from one network to another.

Still, it's important to have the foundation for such efforts codified and those rules back by key industry members. In this case, all the handset makers - Nokia, Siemens, Sony Ericsson, Motorola - and a number of major networks - mmO2, Cingular, T-Mobile USA, AT&T and BT - plus kit makers Ericsson, Alcatel, Nokia (again), Siemens (ditto) and Motorola (likewise).

The UMA group said it is committed to working with the 3GPP to persuade the standards body to adopt the UMA specifications as the basis for its own Wi-Fi-to-GSM roaming and handover standard. ®

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