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CTIA: Coming soon, the do-everything wireless phone

The all-in-one handset is just around the corner

By Bob Brewin
March 23, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - ATLANTA -- Get ready for the do-everything wireless phone, and headsets, too. Manufacturers and developers who are attending the annual Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association event here are already working to cram the functions of cordless phones, cellular handsets and IP telephones into one portable device.
Craig Mathias, an analyst at Far Point Group in Ashland, Mass., predicts that combined multiband cordless, cellular and voice-over-IP (VoIP) wireless LAN phones will be widely available by 2006.
At the chip level, Texas Instruments Inc. introduced a new, low-power Wi-Fi chip set for use in dual cellular/wireless LAN phones. TI's chip set can be configured to work under the 802.11 b/g standards (11Mbit/sec. and 54Mbit/sec., respectively, in the 2.4-GHz band) or to support those standards in addition to 802.11a (54Mbit/sec. in the 5-GHz band).
The new WLAN two-chip set cuts power use by 50% from earlier generations of TI WLAN chip sets and can support both data and VoIP operations, according to Marisa Speziale, a TI spokeswoman.
Mathias noted that power savings are key to the development of wireless combo phones, since adding wireless LAN functionality to a cellular or cordless phone reduces battery life sharply.
The new chip set can be used with TI cellular phone chip sets that operate under a number of standards and their derivatives, including the international Global System for Mobile Communications standard and the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) standard, which is used primarily by U.S. carriers such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint PCS Group.
Speziale said TI is working with Motorola Inc. in Schaumburg, Ill., to develop dual-mode cell and WLAN phones based on TI chips. Last year, Motorola announced plans to develop such phones, and it also formed a joint venture with Avaya Inc. and Proxim Corp. to develop WLAN infrastructure that will support wireless VoIP.
Here at the CTIA show, RTX Telecom A/S, a Danish wireless product developer, debuted a cordless phone that can make regular calls through the public switched telephone network (PSTN), as well as VoIP calls as a client of a VoIP softphone system running on a laptop computer.
The base station of the RTX cordless phone, which operates in the same 2.4-GHz frequency band used by wireless LANs, has two network connections to support the dual functions, according to David Rothenberg, the company's North American director of business development. One jack connects the base station to the PSTN; the other uses a Universal Serial Bus cable to connect to a computer running a softphone client from vendors such as Vonage Holdings Corp. in Edison, N.J., or Skype Technologies



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