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WiFi on Mobiles Can Be Better

Om Malik describes his experience with using WiFi to make a VoIP call. While he describes the experience with a mobile phone (specifically three different Nokia handsets), the experience is likely to be the same for any WiFi-enabled phone, whether it be connected to a conventional wireless network or not. Right now, it’s not great. He’s right about that. However, there is nothing to say T-Mobile couldn’t make the process easier–at least for their supposed UMA offering.

Presumably, T-Mobile will know exactly what IPs and ports are needed to communicate using Voice over IP or an appropriate tunnel protocol. If an endpoint connected to a T-Mobile hotspot tries to access those ports or uses the appropriate tunnel protocol, T-Mobile could simply choose to allow the traffic through without requiring the awkward web page authentication.

Now I know this can work. A prime example of this is with my FON-based access point I have at home. Before people can use this access point, they have to authenticate with either their FON credentials or using “friends and family” credentials established by the access point owner. Until the end user authenticates, the connected WiFi client cannot acces any web page, except or two: the FON login page and a web site chosen specifically by the owner of the FON access point. While this is http or https traffic to two specific locations, it could easily be done with any other kind of traffic. And this is done on a Linksys WRT54GS with modified firmware. If consumer-grade hardware can be made to do it, certainly the people who operate commercial-grade WiFi service can do something similar.

Of course, T-Mobile isn’t going to do anything to make this easier to use your own VoIP service on their hotspot, but it makes complete and total sense for them to make it easier for their own customers to use T-Mobile’s VoIP service (which is a component of Unlicensed Mobile Access, otherwise known as UMA, which is a feature that T-Mobile is reportedly rolling out soon). I wouldn’t expect them to bend over backwards to make it easier to use their competition.

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