When the biggest news isn’t news at all – Nokia and 3GPP VCC

This year’s 3GSM/MWC passed by with few (if any) words said about one of the most interesting announcements from Nokia. In reality this was no announcement at all, it was merely a single line found deep within the spec sheet of the newly launched Nokia E75.
Picture 5.png

What was the big news?

The big news was that the new line of Nokia’s E-Series phones – the E75 model – appears to be shipping with the 3GPP VCC standard embedded within.

What does this mean?

3GPP VCC is a standard developed by some very clever individuals, many of whom I had the pleasure to work with for the past 2 years or so, which allows a phone call to seamlessly handoff between mobile (GSM/CDMA) networks and IP based networks (such as WIFI).

What is the impact?

If the phone is actually delivered with the VCC feature on board, it opens up the possibility of merging together the VoIP telephony worlds on WIFI (at the office or home) with your mobile phone (while on the road). Yes, VCC has been around for a (relatively) long time now, however prior to the Picture 4.pngappearance of this rather innocuous line in the E75 specification it has been largely unused as a result of no phones having the capability built in. Up to now the only way to leverage this standard was through 3rd party software that required significant aftermarket configuration and support. Most of the software on the market either produced a poor overall phone experience by changing the behaviour of the phone too much, or it simply could not keep up to date with the newest phones. Assuming the E75 comes to market with the functionality on board, this will be the first mainstream phone to offer it out of the box.  It will be very interesting to see whether this triggers increased business or consumer offerings.

Two more things…

It was surprising how little effort Nokia put into letting people know about the feature’s existence. It was written on the spec sheet as the very palatable techno-jargon “3GPP VCC”, which no one short of a select few people in the industry will even know what that means, and near as I can tell no effort was made to demonstrate the technology despite its very significant “cool” factor. The end result is that throughout the web and ‘blogosphere’ the silence has been deafening. In contrast, you can imagine a few years from now when Apple releases a new iPhone with the same technology embedded you can be certain that Steve Jobs will be up on stage walking around in his black turtle neck demonstrating for all the world to see the amazing Apple innovation allowing you to use your mobile at home via WIFI and magically walk outside and continue talking on the mobile network.

As a final note, the phone also claims to offer up to 9 hours of talk-time on WLAN which just seems incredible, but well done Nokia if they even come remotely close to this figure.

Impact to Unified Communications

Voice over WIFI merged into the mobile network is a powerful example of the vastly overused and often misunderstood term “unified communications”. In this particular case it:

  • brings together two completely separate network SILO’s – your in-home or business WIFI network and external GSM network.
  • and ensures that no changes of user behaviour are required to achieve this integration.

Both of these I believe to be key elements of any unified communications service and both of which may be achieved should this device deliver on the promise of VCC.