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Friday, May 23, 2008

Why RIM likes UMA

It's not up on the UMAtoday.com website yet, but I got an interesting email from them quoting RIM's CEO at a recent investor conference:

Speaking at RIM's 2008 Capital Markets Day on May 12, Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of Research in Motion (RIM), took the opportunity to acknowledge the tremendous progress UMA has made in the market. “Wi-Fi UMA is going remarkably well," he remarked. "It’s very compelling...This is happening, and it's happening fast."


"Some [carriers]saw it as a threat. I saw it as an enabler, an inevitability. In a sense, its hard to find a carrier that isn’t excited about it now." And he went on: "I think it’s just so compelling and so inevitable.”

The key word here is "carrier". RIM's entire business model is based on the concept of the carrier always being in control (albeit with RIM's network ops guys sitting behind them). RIM does not sell "vanilla" smartphone devices direct to end-users, like Nokia or HTC.

So although RIM puts WiFi into its devices, it only permits its use at the carrier's discretion. It's not possible for a company to buy 1000 unlocked BlackBerries from a distributor, configure the WiFi to work with their Cisco IP-PBX with an FMC client, and then source 1000 SIM cards from whoever they like.

Nokia takes the view that this approach is as valid as selling via the operators. RIM only plays one half of the market - and although obviously the carriers like this philosophy, it isn't the whole story.

This is why RIM likes UMA - it is perfect for devices which only feature "operator-controlled" WiFi. It is very far from perfect for those that sell devices that an allow direct WiFi control by the end user.

1 comment:

Mark Jenkins said...

Dean, you are right that they love UMA because the carriers buy into it. Since the carriers account for nearly 100% of their revenue stream, I'd say appeasment is a good approach. But you also seem to paint the picture that RIM is oblivious to other FMC options. Here you are wrong. You could buy a carrier agnostic SIP BlackBerry as recently as last year. It was a nifty experiment that revealed what Nokia already knows - mVoIP is not ready for prime time. Nokia hung in there with the SIP client and RIM pulled it back. While I give Nokia huge credit for its willingness to hang in there, I would venture a guess that 90% of their SIP enabled units have never connected to a SIP server.

While Nokia has the lead in the mVoIP space today, RIM is not ignoring that market. The current version of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server has over 25 mVoIP policies and 13 SIP specific policies. Adding the Mobile Voice Server may even up the count.

Nokia is the clear leader, and kudos to them. I love my N95 on Asterisks. I also love my BlackBerry 8320 with UMA. Neither is perfect, but I look forward to a day in 2 years when I can look back on today and laugh at how ridiculous both of them were.