5 Things to Know About UMA

So T-Mobile is finally giving the converged WiFi/cellular technology called UMA, it’s long awaited day in the sun in the U.S. If you’re a T-Mobile customer that’s going to sign up for the [email protected] service, you likely don’t give a damn what is powering the handoff between cellular and WiFi, just that the system works.

But if you’re a GigaOM reader, well, then it’s possible you have raged in one of our comment-section debates about the technology that seems to polarize the telecom world. Here’s 5 points we collected from our writings on UMA:

1). UMA what? It’s an international standard that has been in development for years by a consortium of carriers and companies. It stands for Unlicensed Mobile Access and enables the handoff of calls between cellular (GSM only) and unlicensed wireless like WiFi.

2.) British Telecom was the first service to offer UMA over Bluetooth back in 2005. The service was a flop. TeliaSonera launched a WiFi-based UMA service called Home Free in August 2006.

3). UMA-based dual-mode services have been rolled out across the world by carriers such as Orange, British Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telia, Saunalahti, Cincinnati Bell and now T-Mobile

4). Orange of France has sold 275,000 handsets as of June 1, and is currently selling about 2,000/day, proving that customers actually want this kind of convenience. ABI Research predicts that there will be more than 300m dual mode phones sold in 2011

5). Nationwide UMA services like the one T-Mobile launched Wednesday need a UMA infrastructure that extends from the network to the software inside the dual mode handset. T-Mobile is using Alcatel Lucent for the network infrastructure.

Other equipment vendors with UMA on their menu include Nokia, Kineto Wireless, Motorola and Ericsson. Handset manufactures supporting UMA include Samsung, LG, HP, BenQ, SimTech and RIM (rumored.) (T-Mobile wouldn’t comment on how much the nationwide deployment cost.)

T-Mobile [email protected] is by no means a home run. T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom actually cancelled its fixed/mobile convergence service called T-One in Germany. The service was thought to be too expensive, and badly marketed.