Boingo and Kyocera said they'll work together on a combined cellular and Wi-Fi handset: The device will enable seamless roaming between cellular networks and hotspots. The idea is to support both voice and data services that can continue operating while a user is moving from the range of a cellular network into a hotspot. The phones will integrate Boingo's roaming software for connectivity and authentication to hotspots.
Such an integrated device will make it much easier for customers to use voice or other services over Wi-Fi if only because the Boingo application will help with hotspot login and authentication. The press release also is touting the benefit such a combined device will offer to users of higher bandwidth cellular applications, such as streaming video, because such services will operate better over the higher speed Wi-Fi networks.
The key to this announcement, however, will be seeing cellular operators choose to sell the resulting device. Most of the combined cellular/Wi-Fi handsets that operators have said they'll be selling so far purposely don't support voice on the Wi-Fi component. Some operators have discussed combined cellular/Wi-Fi PDAs, which would allow users to download a voice over IP client and use it over Wi-Fi but the service wouldn't be integrated with the cellular network. Most cellular operators aren't promoting the use of voice over Wi-Fi, even though most also say that voice over Wi-Fi is no threat to their cellular businesses.
Boingo also said that it, along with Kyocera, have joined BridgePort Networks' MobileIgnite Alliance. BridgePort describes the alliance as a group of companies "committed to standards-based, interoperability" of mobile voice over IP convergence solutions. In reality though, MobileIgnite pushes the use of BridgePort's solutions to support the integration of cellular and Wi-Fi networks. While the end result makes more sense than UMA because BridgePort's solution takes the most advantage of the efficiencies available by carrying voice over broadband IP networks, the last time I talked to BridgePort the solution required cellular operators to integrate BridgePort's products into their networks. While possible, I think that BridgePort may fight an uphill battle to convince many cellular operators to deploy a solution that offloads traffic from their networks onto hotspots that are potentially owned by another operator.