Carl Weinschenk spoke with Rob Mesirow, vice president of operations, CTIA. The CTIA and the Wi-Fi Alliance recently agreed to jointly certify converged Wi-Fi/cellular handsets.
Weinschenk: What are the CTIA and Wi-Fi Alliance doing to facilitate combined 3G and VoIP handsets?
Mesirow: I think any time there are multiple radios in a handset, you've got to be concerned about the interference. That's why we have a converged device advisory group. We are working with the Wi-Fi Alliance because ... they have expertise in certified Wi-Fi equipment. We've been certifying handsets for nearly a decade. It makes sense to pool resources to develop a testing plan for these converged devices. We just announced the working relationship, so we are now starting to work through the issues. [CTIA has] done this stuff before. We recently completed battery certification. As [vendors] continue adding new components such as MP3 players, it can change the dynamics, so you must constantly reevaluate the plans. That's why the work is never done. Essentially, what we do as an industry association is pull together all of the carriers and manufacturers, basically the people in the industry, and agree to a set criteria for best operating practices for handsets. That way, everything is consistent and carriers get a handset that meets a minimum operating level in field. The majority of carriers want handsets to be CTIA-certified. It reduces the cost to carriers and speeds time to market. There is less testing that they have to do. In general, the carriers expect [devices] to be CTIA-certified before they get on the network.
Weinschenk: Are all the carriers equally excited about converged handsets and networks?
Mesirow: It depends on which carrier. Some are in a bigger hurry than others. I think they all are planning to implement devices, all have VoIP initiatives. I think some wireless carriers that already have a plethora of hotspots will probably be more keen to get converged devices on the network in a more expedient manner.
Weinschenk: It's an interesting dynamic. In many cases, Wi-Fi and 3G will compete for business. But platforms must be put into the same piece of equipment. Is that awkward?
Mesirow: I don't know if we are necessarily competitors. We are all trying to achieve the same goal: We want to create a broadband network that our customers can utilize [whether it's] 3G or [Wi-Fi]. That's the beauty of a converged device. It's a truly mobile environment [through 3G] or, if you are in a spot with a Wi-Fi signal, then you utilize that. In that, it's really all about choice.