Today we've got something a little more concrete regarding RIMs Wi-Fi plans. RIM senior VP David Yach has just told eWeek that the company will integrate Wi-Fi into one of its device before the end of the year.
It appears the ability for its smartphones and handhelds to seamlessly handoff calls and data connections between a Wi-Fi (corporate) network and the cellular network is of particularly importance to RIM.
This technology, known in the industry as fixed/mobile convergence or dual-mode, brings together the best of the unlicensed (aka Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) and licensed (cellular) wireless worlds. In short, it allows a mobile handsets to leverage the type of wireless network that is most convenient and cheapest to use at any given momentwithout service interruption and seamlessly to the end-user.
Mobile operator cooperation is essential. "We're working with the carriers to support that kind of technology," Yach explained to eWeek.
Fixed/mobile convergence technologies like Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) - available in the GSM world - can also extend mobile phone and smartphone service to places where cellular reception might otherwise be poor or non-existent. The idea is to give mobile operators a wider footprint from which to serve subscribers, while delivering to a better overall experience.
"I think Wi-Fi is interesting because it offers a number of capabilities, and because it offers coverage where there is none," Yach said toeWeek. "You're not as concerned about usage fees. Our goal with Wi-Fi then is that Wi-Fi will just work. When you have coverage Wi-Fi will work, and when you don't you'll use something else".
Yach did not say which carriers RIM has been talking to about offering a Wi-Fi integrated BlackBerry. One likely candidate is T-Mobile, the first operator to deliver a dual-mode service in the U.S. It is also the operator with the smallest (currently non-existent) 3G footprint and by far the largest Wi-Fi footprint, with over 8,000 hotspots across the country.
Some operators with extensive 3G coverage prefer subscribers stick to their cellular-wireless broadband networks - at least when it comes to data access - as they've spent billions of dollars installing these networks over the last few years. They may see the benefit of delivering Wi-Fi-related phone services where they couldn't before, stepping onto landline phone companies turf (e.g. indoors - business and the home - and in rural areas), through fixed-mobile convergence technology, however.
This article was first published on SmartPhoneToday.com.