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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

UMA conference

I managed to survive my jaunt to Barcelona last week, where I faced a rampaging mob of UMA-istas wanting to lynch me for my heretical comments about their pet technology. I was reasonably stark with my views, with one slide entitled "Salvaging something from the wreckage of UMA".

Actually, there were mostly pretty nice about it, to be be fair. I was only there for one day of the three, but there had already been a bit of a reality check from the highly emphatic John Strand

Some thoughts:

- There was a common refrain of "but it's just another access technology!" which is sort-of true but ignores the fact that it's an access technology with a range of dependencies on handset capabilities & user experience, as well as things like home gateways
- There was a fair amount of agreement with my (comparatively positive) belief that UMA may get reincarnated as a more generic authentication technology for operator-provided devices which aren't dual-mode phones.
- There's still an underlying belief (also present in IMS circles) that "the network knows best" and that applications such as voice ought to be "access agnostic", with the "top layer" of the phone unaware of what wireless access is being used. This despite increasing numbers of discussions I'm having pointing out that Moore's Law means that phones are increasingly smart enough to decide which network to use (and how) for themselves.
- Customer service issues remain a potential business model killer for UMA. In particular, my assertion that only households with operator-provided home gateways (rather than retail purchased WiFi APs) seems borne out by operator feedback.
- Many operators quite like the idea of VCC as a UMA alternative, but to quote one UMA-deploying operator "unfortunately VCC's not available tomorrow". I'm also starting to suspect that it may not be as easy as it looks, either.
- Interesting presentation from inCode suggested there's no clear roaming business model for UMA. (Interesting as well in that inCode has been a lot more UMA-positive in the past - something which had prompted me to challenge them to a head-to-head debate, which their PR people shied away from.....)
- Nobody seemed to have considered the possibility that UMA traffic could be easily-spotted (and perhaps blocked / charged / degraded without Net Neutrality) on a non-friendly broadband ISP's connections
- UMA business models which don't rely on cheap in-home voice as the main driver were thing on the ground. And given the other ways of getting there with HomeZones, Picocells and (as Mr Strand pointed out) cheap flatrate MVNOs, it's not obvious that this pricing argument is sustainable.

I'll update the post with some more thoughts later as I have to run now....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Dean

I was at the conference, and have some comments regarding your observations. You make a lot of valid points, but I believe you to be wrong in your conclusions.

- There seems to be a lot of confusion to what UMA is. It really is a new access network, a really cheap one that is. No new "UMA services" will appear, unless they are also provided on the 2G/3G network.

- This cheap network enables operators to provide flat rate in the home while still milking the macro network with high rates. This means that they will have a profit (revenue-cost) advantage over flat rate mvnos which have to provide flat rate everywhere (less profit) on a more costly network.

- If BB providers haven't stopped Skype, why would they stop UMA? And competition authorities would likely find such a practice highly suspicious.

- Quote from a major network vendor: "VCC is way to costly and complicated, and will never happen". VCC solves a tiny problem; seamless handover between WLAN and 2G/3G. UMA provides the same, with so many more additional benefits (quality based handover to GSM, service transparency, sofisticated operator control, total integration into support systems such as legal interception and billing etc etc).

- Remember that IMS/VCC will only have voice, while UMA is service transparent. I for one would be very angry if I could not receive SMS while indoors. So IMS/VCC is a downgrade from UMA, and is many years from completion. What is the fuss about?

- IMS/VCC VoIP main selling point is that it is "all IP". So? IP from the phone to an UNC, and IP through the release 4 core network means that UMA is close to "all IP".

Looking forward to your continued coverage of UMA :o)