Electronic Design

Dual-Mode Phone Has Split Personality

How much do you pay for your cell-phone bill? According to CTIA-The Wireless Association, Americans pay an average of $49.30 per month for the freedom to talk on the run. Tack on local and state taxes, fees, and surcharges, and the average bill rises to $60 per month.

Now, consumers can make all the calls they want without having to worry about going over their minutes. D-Link’s V-Click dual-mode GSM/Wi-Fi phone line features tri-band GSM (900/1800/1900 MHz) and 802.11 Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz) access, enabling users to switch between cellular and Wi-Fi networks at will (see the figure).

The 4.17- by 1.73- by 0.75-in. handset features a 2-in., 176- by 220-pixel screen and an internal antenna. It has 24 Mbytes of data storage and can support up to five hours of GSM talk time or two hours of Wi-Fi usage.

The V-Click uses the Opera Mobile browser to log in to Wi-Fi hot spots. Standards-based wireless encryption (WEP, WPA, and WPA2) enable enhanced security of transmission when operating in Wi-Fi mode.

The V-Click will be a “pay-as-you-go” device, so consumers can purchase call time from providers that will load up the phone’s SIM card. By pressing the V-Click button, users activate a configurable wireless and SIP profile. Multiple profiles that make usage between home and office automatic are available.

A NATURAL EXTENSION: D-Link’s entrance into the cellular handset market may raise a few eyebrows, but it’s easy to see why the company entered the fray. A report by research firm In-Stat says that more than 200 million Wi-Fi/mobile handsets will have shipped by 2010. As of June 2006, there were more than 220 million wireless subscribers in the U.S. “We view the V-Click as the ideal way for us to meet the ever-increasing demand from both consumers and business for a mobile device that allows for easy transition from wide-reaching cellular services to the much faster Wi-Fi and more affordable VoIP technologies,” says Steven Joe, D-Link president and CEO.

“The market for dual-mode phones looks very promising, and the more than 10 years we’ve had in researching and developing 802.11 wireless and VoIP technologies make this a natural extension of our product offerings,” he adds.

Joe notes that as more cities across the U.S. adopt municipal Wi-Fi, demand for dual-mode handsets will increase. Business and consumer acceptance of wired VoIP will play a role as well.

CLOSING IN ON CONVERGENCE: This past April, the Wi-Fi Alliance and CTIA joined forces to form the Converged Wireless Group (CWG) to provide independent testing of dual-mode Wi-Fi/mobile phones. Manufacturers now have the opportunity to do tests at a third-party lab. A detailed report then can be provided to carriers.

This is important for two reasons. First, carriers can use reports from the third-party tests to compare different handsets across vendors and choose those most suitable for their networks. Second, by reaching out to wireless service providers early in the game, manufacturers have a better chance of working with carriers that may fear that dual-mode phones will cut into their revenue.

“This program is an important step in the development of the convergence market,” says CTIA VP of operations Robert Mesirow. “Without this test program, carriers couldn’t be sure that a Wi-Fi/ mobile phone would meet their rigorous specifications, but now they will have the data they need to select the handsets best suited for their networks.”

With multiple manufacturers already testing Wi-Fi/mobile phones, consumers will soon have a selection to chose from. And given the success of VoIP, widespread adoption isn’t far away.

AVAILABILITY: The V-Click won’t be available until January, but with a $600 price tag, the handset may be a tough sell. And, it isn’t the only dual-mode phone on the market. Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, and other companies are either already offering Wi-Fi/wireless phones or plan to in the near future.

Is there a market for dual-mode handsets? Read wireless/communications editor Lou Frenzel's perspective in Dual-Mode Handsets Dead On Arrival?.

And check out Associate Editor Christine Hintze's interview with D-Link Associate Vice President of Technology North American Sales William C. Brown about where single- and dual-mode Wi-Fi phones are going, as well as the design concepts behind the company’s first-generation V-Click handsets.

TAGS: Mobile
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