The Future Mobile Phone: WiFi or Cellular?


A press release I bumped into the other day, about Siracom's UniData WiFi Videophone, set to launch at CeBIT (that's like yesterday), got me thinking --- What a cool idea!

We already have mobile phones with video telephony embedded into them. Many Smartphones today already support WiFi. And we also have a bunch of WiFi phones (mainly for enterprises). So why not a WiFi videophone?

I admit this is not the first one I lay eyes on, and it is still at a low resolution (QVGA, 320x240), but it's video and it's mobile, so I will talk about it here.

I wrote about VoIP on mobile handsets on my VoIP Survivor blog just two days ago. From the looks of it, it isn't going mainstream any time soon, as operators hold strong to their current business models.

How can VoIP still be used on mobile handsets then? By making sure it is used over WiFi only - the kind of applications that Apple approves for the iPhone.

Most of us are actually spending most of our time in areas with WiFi connectivity - workplace, home, coffee shops, restaurants, malls. So do we even need a cellular network or can WiFi work just fine most of the time?

If the answer to the question above is "it will work just fine most of the time", here's a humble request to the mobile operators out there - let VoIP clients into mobile handsets. Preinstalled. Seamlessly integrated into the UI. Prevent them from accessing the 3G network, but let us use them over WiFi.

My guess? It's still too much to ask.

So what about the standalone WiFi phone? I'm not really sure if it's got any future. Maybe for enterprises, and even then only as part of a desktop phone. But then again, RIM wants their Blackberry to be my desktop phone. So there's a hard competition on my desktop as well.

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