Wi-Fi Phones Bring Freedom, Phobia

New cellphones incorporating Wi-Fi will finally let us take a single phone number everywhere we go. Can Implantable Phones be around the corner?

I really like the Nextel service. Its direct connect feature—basically a walkie-talkie on steroids—is just so darn useful. But coverage problems limit its effectiveness—dead cells inside buildings and outside metropolitan areas can make connecting hit-or-miss.

But help is coming from a new direction. Wi-Fi, the panacea for just about everything, may well help solve cell-phone connection problems, and also usher in a new era of one-person one-phone. From my perspective, it cant happen soon enough.

Lets take it one step at a time. First Wi-Fi phones. Why add the 802.11 networking capability into a cell phone? For Cisco, which announced last week that itll deliver a Wi-Fi phone in June, its all about Voice over IP in the enterprise. Your phone works when its connected to your Cisco-based Wi-Fi network, but turns into a doorstop when you walk out the door.

Im more excited about traditional cellular phones combined with Wi-Fi. Ericsson last week announced a dual-mode chipset that combines CDMA2000 with 802.11, a melding of technologies that lets you bypass the standard cell-phone network whenever youre within range of an open Wi-Fi hub. And Motorola says theyll deliver a Wi-Fi-based iDen phone—for the Nextel network—within a year or so.