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US yawns at Wi-Fi enabled phones

Wake up, operators

Market watcher Ovum reckons that only one US mobile phone subscriber in 50 will have a Wi-Fi enabled phone by 2010. Dual-mode phones that support both WLAN and cellular are already a familiar sight in the Europe and Asia markets. Most of Nokia's E series, and its N80 consumer smart phone, feature both standards.

But in the US, carriers have hampered the adoption of WLAN-capable handsets. Ovum says the industry needs a "reality check" and predicts that less than 5.5 million subscribers will have onboard WLAN.

The prediction confirms fears that the USA is falling behind in mobile VoIP telephony - which we discussed here.

As for convergence: You won't get there from here, advises Ovum.

"Everyone in the telecoms industry is still too focused on dual-mode phones, even though the people working in the trenches are beginning to voice real skepticism that dual-mode services will ever take off," concludes Ovum's Jan Dawson.

"Overall, it's time for a reality check and for carriers to move on to the forms of fixed-mobile convergence which have real potential for commercial launch. Recent merger and acquisition activity has left us with three major players with a significant opportunity to combine wireline and wireless offerings, but we've yet to see any real moves in this direction. Now is the time to act."

Or, er... what? We wonder. Well, fixed-mobile convergence might not happen - which would happen to suit the three big US incumbents quite nicely. ®

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