October 29, 2004

Fixed Wireless Phones Testing the Waters

Here's an interesting tidbit, also from eWeek: "'Fixed Wireless' Brings Cell Service to Analog Jacks". Here's the concept: Trade in your analog "wired" home phones for a "fixed" cell phone -- fixed because it doesn't go anywhere, just like your old phone.

From the article: "Cell phone coverage and equipment have improved to the point where there is less difference between the quality of cell networks and the POTS ["Plain Old Telephone System"]. Emergency 911 service, previously difficult to use on wireless, is also comparable to landline quality. Consumers are reacting, and the number of households and businesses that are completely wireless is growing."

But here's the rub, at least until I hear otherwise:

"But just like any cell phone, when you purchase a Telular unit, you have to go to your local cell service store and have your unit "activated" with cell service and a phone number (Telular has service agreements with AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint in the United States and is working on Verizon).

From AT&T Wireless' point of view, the unit is just another cell phone, and thus it uses a standard cell phone agreement. That means the unit can be a second phone on an existing cell phone plan, which can make it fairly economical to own and use. Begging comparison with handheld GSM cell phones, the unit even has a little slot where you can insert your GSM SIM card."

So, if I have three landline phones at home all sharing the same line and phone number, what happens when I go wireless? Do I get three fixed cell phone "boxes" on the same number for the same cost as I do now? Or do I have to pay for three additional phones on my current cell phone plan, with either separate or shared minutes? Remember, these "wireless" phones are not "cordless" with respect to the handset: The photos I saw at Telular's site are desktop phones with corded handsets. Also, if I don't have a landline phone jack handy, I can always use a cordless phone, and one with extra handsets that don't require separate phone jacks.

For example, I just switched to Verizon for my regular cell, and chose the Family Share Plan -- where each additional phone costs a separate monthly charge just to be "shared" with no increase in the pooled minutes. Will each "fixed" cell phone have the same telephone number, or a different one? If, per the article, it's "just another cell phone", then will I have three different home telephone numbers to share with friends and family? Yikes. I'd love to see some clarification. If the total wireless plan costs are less than my combined monthly landline and wireless costs, then it may make some sense. A number of people have already discontinued their landline account to go completely cellular for that reason. However, if I was still using dial-up for cheap Internet access, would I then have to pay extra for the cellular data service? In that case, DSL and cable look a lot more attractive, because cell data plans are very expensive in comparison.

So until it's both cost effective and easy to understand, I'm not too sure this is going to fly in the consumer space. Also, in corporate environments, it sure seems that VOIP (Voice Over IP) is getting a larger toehold. So where does "fixed wireless" fit in -- and what am I missing here?

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard

For me, the key fallacy in this idea is the article's statement that "Cell phone coverage and equipment have improved to the point where there is less difference between the quality of cell networks and the POTS." LESS difference, maybe, but c'mon, I can't remember the last time I had a dropped call on POTS.

And if you're gonna be on an hour-long conversation, do you want to be on a land line or a cell phone? For me, that's a no-brainer, since the sound quality remains mediocre on all the cell providers I've used.

Posted by: ND at November 1, 2004 11:18 AM