WiFi Networking News is reporting that an industry group is building specs for roaming between WiFi and GSM networks. The group includes most of the big players: Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, T-Mobile, Cingular, AT&T Wireless, Alcatel, and others. The “Unlicensed Mobile Access” (UMA) spec is supposed to make it possible for users to use a WiFi-enabled cell phone and have calls seamlessly handed off between GSM, public WiFI, and private WiFi networks.
Personally, I’d love to be able to roam between my home wireless/VoIP network and the cellular network, and at least in theory that’s what this group is working on, but I have real doubt about any of the carriers implementing this in any reasonable manner. I can’t see any obvious business case for them letting users migrate calls off of the carriers’ high-priced networks and onto low-cost private networks. If wireless rates free-fall, like some have predicted, then it’s possible that they could use this to prop up their revenue, but that’s about the only case that I can see for it–most carriers seem very determined to keep people from migrating traffic off of their networks in any way, shape, or form. Witness the Verizon Bluetooth Debacle for an example–the carriers don’t seem to have a problem with working against their customers best interests. As consolidation continues in the industry, I fully expect to see more cartel-like behavior on their parts, and less innovation and flexibility.