BT's finally announced its consumer variant of WiFi Fusion. I'm a bit disappointed to be honest - I'd thought the delayed launch vs. Orange, Telecom Italia (NYSE:TI) et al meant that they'd been waiting for an ideal opportunity to announce some new WiFi UMA phones. But it's the same-old A910, P200 and 6136 - not even the recently-announced Nokia 6086. I guess all the device manufacturers are waiting for 3GSM next month.
The reference to BT's Wireless Cities is interesting, and is a differentiator vs. quite a lot of other HomeZone-only FMC pitches. But it raises some interesting issues around scaling up hand-off. I haven't got the stats, but I'd be surprised if the average consumer Fusion user actually uses the WiFi/cellular or cellular/WiFi handoff more than a couple of times a week. Maybe 100 times a year, let's say. I mean, how often do you actually walk in or out of your front door at home, mid-call?
. . . but in an urban area, there's likely to be lots more WiFi "dark spots" - getting on the Tube, walking in and out of buildings, and in some cases the WiFi no-service area will overlap with a cellular no-service area, with all sorts of funny effects on the fringes. I guesstimate that the average user will probably have 10x or 20x more handoff events in a metro/hotzone setting than just using it at home. Should be interesting to see how the devices, the networks, the user interface and the batteries all cope with this.
Also interesting is BT's pitch on pricing & distribution. I definitely like the "four minutes talk for the price of one" as it's pretty easy-to-understand, although how it competes in the longer term with "free" courtesy of Skype/other VoWLAN is less clear. Elasticity being what it is, though, I suspect "75% off" in consumers' eyes is almost as good as "free." The Phones4U deal sounds promising as well - but what isn't stated in the press release is whether it will also bundle BT Broadband, and whether Fusion will also start to be made available for non-BT Broadband customers.
BT 1-yr chart