Mobile world readies for IP-based future

Leading wireless service providers and equipment suppliers today at the 2000 GSM World Congress in Cannes, France announced the formation of an industry group aimed at speeding up the adoption of open, mobile Internet standards.

Meanwhile, vendors here also unleashed a range of products aimed at allowing service providers to build next-generation, Internet protocol-based wireless networks for integrated data and voice traffic.

The new industry group, called the Mobile Wireless Internet Forum (MWIF), boasts among its 45 founding members many of the world's leading computer, networking and telecommunications companies, including Alcatel SA, Cisco Systems Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., IBM Corp., L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co., Motorola Inc., Nokia Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sprint PCS and Vodafone AirTouch PLC.

MWIF was formed to provide a venue for service providers and equipment suppliers to jointly identify and resolve issues surrounding development of key specifications, and to enable early implementation of wireless networks based on IP (Internet protocol), according to a statement issued today by the founding members.

Such specifications will be aimed at creating common infrastructure and services, as well as enabling seamless integration between mobile telephony and new IP-based services, including data, voice, video and multimedia applications, the statement said.

In related news, Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia this week announced new product offerings designed to provide service providers a speedy upgrade path to IP-based networks, to cope with the huge increases in traffic expected to result from the marriage of the Internet and mobile voice communications.

Many of the new offerings are aimed at bridging the gap between current second-generation GSM networks and future, fully integrated 3G (third-generation) technologies. The first 3G networks are scheduled to be launched by 2001, with Japan's NTT Mobile Communications Network Inc. expected to be first out of the gates.

Although still in its infancy, packet-based communications, including IP telephony, could make up as much as half of the traffic on the world's advanced wireless networks by 2004, predicted a senior Nokia executive in a statement issued today detailing the company's new concept for IP-based Radio Access Networks.

To be sure, the evolution towards packet-based traffic has already started, with a raft of GSM network operators over the coming months set to launch new services based on GPRS (general packet radio service). British Telecommunications PLC, for example, today announced that BT Cellnet, its mobile phone service unit, by this summer will launch its first GPRS-based services.

Ericsson in turn, yesterday launched what it billed as the world's first IP-based base station for mobile networks based on GSM (global system for mobile communications), the world's most widely deployed digital mobile network standard.

At the core of the Ericsson IP Base Station System lies the new RXI 820 router, the Stockholm-based vendor said in a statement. Capable of prioritizing delay-sensitive traffic, such as voice or video conferencing, over pure data, the RXI 820 will for the first time allow service providers to offer guaranteed quality of service in integrated GSM network environments.

Based on the company's platform for 3G networks, the router is capable of handling traffic based on both IP version 4 (IPv4) and IP version 6 (IPv6), as well as transition between the two, Ericsson said.

Motorola's Network Solutions Sector, meanwhile, today announced an agreement with Portal Software Inc. to jointly develop, market and implement billing offerings for IP-based wireless networks.

The plan calls for the integration of Portal's Infranet real-time customer management and billing software with Motorola's Aspira architecture for IP-based communications, the companies said in a statement.

The collaboration is aimed at allowing network operators and service providers to speed up the design, development and deployment of new wireless Internet services, Motorola and Portal said.

The Mobile Wireless Internet Forum can be reached via the Web at Ericsson, in Stockholm, can be reached via the Web at Motorola, in Schaumburg, Illinois, is at Nokia, in Espoo, Finland, is at Portal Software, in Cupertino, California, is at

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