Cellular network infrastructure provider Airvana is set to launch a new gateway that will let wireless carriers extend their services beyond a cellular network.
The Universal Access Gateway supports both cellular networks and IP-based networks such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and WiMax, said officials at the Chelmsford, Mass., company.
"The point of the UAG is to enable the incumbent service providers to take advantage of the same thing third-party service providers are taking advantage of," said Leigh Chinitz, director of marketing and business development at Airvana.
The company will be displaying the gateway at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas in April, showing a phone call handoff between a CDMA-1X cellular network and a Wi-Fi network, Chinitz said.
The convergence of fixed and mobile network services in general is gaining ground, industry analysts said. ABI Research, a technology consultancy, predicts that there will be a tenfold increase in fixed/mobile convergence revenues between 2006 and 2010.
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To wit, British Telecom recently launched a service for small business customers, which provides a single bill for both fixed and mobile services.
And with the onset of Wi-Fi—and voice over IP over Wi-Fi—the term "fixed" is pretty nebulous anyway.
"The original thought was that youd have a cell phone, then youd put it back into a dock and have it put back into a landline," said Iain Gillott, president of iGillottResearch Inc. in Austin, Texas.
"Now when you look at fixed-mobile convergence and ask people about it, they say, Whats fixed?"
There are security issues inherent in bridging cellular networks with IP networks for both voice and data services.
"You open up a conventional cellular network to IP services, and the best way to describe what [it] does to a cellular network in terms of security is that it opens up huge holes," Gillott said.
Airvanas Universal Access Gateway protects traffic at the network layer with the use of IPSec along with support for multiple authentication protocols, either directly or through partners.
The gateway also includes billing software to help carriers differentiate between cellular and other services, and figure out how to charge for them.
Chinitz said the gateway will be in trials throughout the year and commercially available to carriers next year.
The company currently has partnership agreements with both Nortel and Ericsson, who include Airvanas radio products with their network offerings.
Regarding cutting-edge convergence services, analysts expect these to appear from companies such as Airvana before theyre available from larger network infrastructure companies.
"The Nortels and the Ciscos and the Lucents are talking about it, but they all partner," Gillott said.
Both Sprint and Verizon Wireless use Airvana equipment in their networks, but carriers have yet to commit to commercial deployment of the new gateway.
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