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Trio combine to power converged UMA phones

Posted by inet - 2006-02-09

PARIS— Philips Semiconductors has scored a significant win in the emerging Wi-Fi and cellular converged phones business and said Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA)-enabled phones, based on its Nexperia cellular system solution, will soon become available in the U.S. market from a major operator.

While Philips declined to name the U.S. operator and handset vendors supplying the UMA phones, the Dutch semiconductor company claimed an early lead Wednesday (Feb. 8) in the emerging UMA market “as an independent system solution provider,” because of the close partnership with Kineto Wirless and Alcatel.

Kineto makes the UMA Network Controllers for the network, as well as UMA client software for the handsets. Alcatel is a leading supplier of network infrastructure equipment.

Under the partnership, Philips Semiconductors has made sure that its mobile handset system solution—to which Kineto’s client software was ported—can correctly work with the UMA-enabled network infrastructure, according to GertJan Kaat, senior vice president and general manager of the Mobile & Personal Business Unit at Philips Semiconductors.

The three companies spent the last 12 months “making the software running in the infrastructure stable,” Kaat told EE Times . As it completed the validation its UMA implementation, “we can start ramping up UMA phones next month,” he added.

UMA technology was developed to provide access to GSM and GPRS mobile services over unlicensed spectrum technologies, including Bluetooth and 802.11. UMA-based solutions enable subscribers with dual-mode UMA handsets to roam between cellular networks and unlicensed wireless networks. A UMA network controller acts as a virtual basestation, providing handoff between cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

Industry analysts have queried whether wireless carriers would be willing to subsidize dual-mode UMA handsets, and how the billing would be handled. Philips’ Kaat, however, stressed: “You can’t stop it [UMA] from happening. Consumers are driven by lower-cost phone bills.”

Now that Kineto’s UMA client software is already ported to Philips Nexperia’s cellular system solution 6120—an ARM-9-based GSM/GPRS/EDGE multimedia platform—all handset vendors need to add is Philips' BGW211, a low-power 802.11g WLAN system-in-package (SiP), according to Kaat.

The BGW211, “priced at between $5 and $6,” uses advanced process technologies and packaging techniques to integrate the baseband/MAC, radio, power amplifier and antenna, he added. Further, the solution delivers all the hardware, software validation, support and interoperability testing.

The UMA-enabled Nexperia cellular system 6120 is already available to cellular phone makers worldwide. UMA technology will be implemented into the Nexperia chip for 3G by the end of the year.

Philips will demonstrate at next week's 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, Spain a live but voice-only connection on a GSM handset, switched via WLAN to a UMA network controller.

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