In a confirmation of what many level-headed folks have been saying in the cellular industry for years, Wi-Fi will supplement scarce 3G spectrum to overload voice traffic: The technical head of SBC reveals what some had guessed part of his strategy might be. Among many prongs, SBC has aggressively pushed Wi-Fi gateways into homes, and gone from zero to 60 in the hotspot market by signing a massive client (The UPS Store), and becoming the first McDonald's/Wi-Fi World partner with Wayport.
Now, CTO Chris Rice says that Cingular will offer phones by 2006 that switch voice from Wi-Fi to cellular automatically. This kind of handoff will effectively Cingular more spectrum, as Rice puts it in this Reuters interview. Rice seems to be saying--as Carlo Longino points out--that the Cingular phones would use whatever SBC Wi-Fi was available, whether in private homes or at hotspots. That's a strange idea, but with 802.11e (quality of service) and Wi-Fi gateways that supported it, the Cingular phones could conceivably override a SBC's DSL subscriber's own data packets for priority! Very very odd idea, and we'll see if a clarification is made on that front.
SBC will offer a Wi-Fi/cell phone to businesses first, and work with them to install the right VoIP equipment in house, starting in 2005. In 2006, they'll offer consumer-based Wi-Fi/cell switching. [link via The Feature's Carlo Longino]
(Correction to the Reuters article: The article misstates who is installing Wi-Fi at McDonald's and the total number SBC plans to install: SBC has promised 20,000 access points but only 6,000 hot spots, and is handling the Internet back-haul and network but not the store infrastructure or the actual deal with McDonald's. Wayport has the contract with McDonald's. For The UPS Store, Wayport is acting as a managed services firm for SBC.)