Fujitsu unveils combo wireless IP, cellular phone

Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. has developed a prototype wireless Internet Protocol (IP) telephone handset that can also be used with conventional cellular telephone networks.

“The design of all mobile phones is dependent on the carrier,” said Hideki Mitsunobu, of Fujitsu Laboratories, who was demonstrating the handset at the Fujitsu Solution Forum event in Tokyo on Thursday. “We can’t use any software or any service because the carrier has to guard the security of its network but with this handset we can use anything easily.”

The secret of the handset is a Compact Flash card slot in the top of the device into which various cellular network cards can be inserted. A Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) module can be inserted and the handset will work on GSM networks, a Personal Handyphone System (PHS) module inserted and it will work on Japan’s PHS network, for example. Wireless LAN support is built into the handset and so is always available.

Because the cellular network interface is in a card that’s already been approved by the carrier or relevant authorities, the rest of the handset requires no special approval and so can be customized or loaded with whatever software the user requires. The base operating system of the prototype is Windows CE .Net version 4.2.

“It’s basically a phone-shaped PDA,” Mitsunobu said.

It was jointly developed by Fujitsu with Net-2Com Corp., a venture company started from Fujitsu in 2000. It is likely to be offered first by Net-2Com and will be targeted at corporations for use in association with a Fujitsu-developed telephone system, said Noriyuki Fukuyama, a senior researcher in Fujitsu’s Information Technology Core Laboratories.

When within range of a wireless LAN, be it the corporate network or any public or private hotspot, the handset communicates with a server and provides its current location. On receipt of an incoming call, the Fujitsu telephone system can direct it across the Internet to the handset. Should the handset be out of range or an Internet connection not possible, it defaults to a cellular network connection. Calls from the handset can be handled in the same way, said Fukuyama.

The handset features a 2.2-inch color LCD liquid crystal display (LCD) with QVGA resolution — 240 pixels by 320 pixels — and runs on an Intel Corp. PXA273 processor. It measures 48 millimeters by 17 millimeters by 134 millimeters.

No price for the handset has yet been set however Mitsunobu noted it is likely to cost more than a cellular telephone because there will be no carrier subsidiary. Based on its technical specification, it is likely to be somewhere around the same price as a PDA, said Mitsunobu.

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