The Best WiFi VoIP Phone Doesn't Use SIP

After years of searching, my prayers have finally been answered; I have found a WiFi VoIP phone that I can actually use.   The object of my desire is the Blackberry 8820 paired with T-Mobile's @Home service.  The irony of it is that it is not a SIP phone!

For years, I have searched for a convenient way to bring my office extension with me when I travel outside of the US.   For a while, I carried around an ATA (much to my wife's dismay) almost everywhere .  But, finding an Ethernet port to plug it into was often impossible.  When the first WiFi SIP phones turned up circa 2004, my inner geek rejoiced as my imagination ran wild with the possibilities.  Alas, the reality turned out to be wanting.   Weaknesses such as  power-hungry WiFi chipsets (resulting in poor battery life) and the inability to handoff when moving between WiFi access points plagued every device I tested.    Even the most recent unit I tried, Nokia's stylish E51, disappointed.   The gadget graveyard in my basement is a field of broken dreams as a result.

So, when I recently replaced my ailing Curve with the new Blackberry 8820, it was with low expectations.   In fact, I had avoided trying T-Mobile's @Home service because of poor reviews on the early handsets (the service was initially launched with the Nokia 6086 and Samsung t409).   The @Home service uses WiFi access points to allow users to connect from home or the office to make calls at landline rates  (info about @Home is here)  Much to my surprise though, they got it right with the 8820.  

This is not meant to be a review of the 8820, so I won't get into its many great features.   Let it suffice to say that the phone is eminently useable and has the same polish and functionality that crackberry addicts love and expect  (the combination of GPS and Google Maps alone is worth the price of the phone).  The point is that  I was able to place and receive calls from WiFi hotspots in Hong Kong (where free WiFi abounds) and Manila (which is decidedly less WiFi friendly than Hong Kong) as if I were sitting at my desk in the middle of Manhattan.   Amazing!

The only downside (and its not REALLY) is that a SIP device maker didn't come up with it first.  The 8820 uses GSM-over-IP  (there is no SIP client in the device) to allow seamless transition between cellular and hotspot coverage.  Still VoIP...  just not my favorite flavour.   Nonetheless the fundamentals of the phone  (WiFi chipset, battery life, user interface) lend themselves equally well to a SIP implementation.  I look forward to the day when cellco's will embrace the 2-sided telecom business model and allow such an animal to be created.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Eric Hernaez published on August 19, 2008 6:07 PM.

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Wholesale Prices Rising, but not for SIP Termination is the next entry in this blog.

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