Hop-on Skips to Market with $39 WiFi Mobile Phone

Hop-on today debuted a WiFi IP phone and software that allows users to make calls from WiFi hot spots around the world. With a price tag of US$39, the company is continuing its reputation of manufacturing low-cost mobile phones.

The company said its HOP1502 handset provides all the features and functionality of a VoIP terminal adapter in a small form factor similar to today’s mobile phones. Based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), service providers can add on features like three-way calling, call waiting, and call forwarding.

Hop-on is hoping to cash in on what the Instat Group reports is a market set for explosion. The number of mobile/WLAN (VOIP) subscribers will reach over 256 million worldwide by 2009, according to the market research firm. And the numbers of subscribers using WLAN for voice is expected to exceed those using WLAN for data only by that time.

“Hop-on believes that the features and price point of the HOP1502 WiFi IP handset will be challenging to the Industry,” said Hop-on President Samuel Demissie. “WiFi phones have not yet been deployed in quantity by carriers due to security challenges such as fraud, theft of call information, passwords and the lack of 911 Emergency Service.”

Next-Generation Walkie-Talkies

Jupiter Research analyst Joe Laszlo told TechNewsWorld that the entire wireless industry is looking into Voice over WiFi. In fact, Motorola has plans to launch a dual mode cell phone that leverages the advantages of WiFi networks to relieve voice traffic over existing wireless networks.

“If Hop-on can build a product that goes between a traditional network and a WiFi network, that would garner a significant amount of interest,” Laszlo said. “That seems to be the future of this kind of technology. But we are a long way from the kinds of substantial growth that some are predicting.”

We’re a long way, he said, because consumers expect their mobile phones to work virtually everywhere. WiFi networks won’t be able to duplicate that degree of coverage for at least five years. Then there are WiFi security concerns.

Patented Security Solution

To address the security question, Demissie said Hop-on worked with industry leading security partners to develop a total solution package for carriers and hot spot owners. The solution is designed to enable seamless authentication and billing enablement for the carrier.

The company said it relies on Virtual SIM (VSIM) patented software technology, which replicates the same benefits of GSM/CDMA security and authentication in WiFi phones, to reduced the security and billing challenges carriers face.

The VSIM solution enables non-ambiguous identification of a handset designed to protect it against impersonation, anti-replay and fraud. VSIM exchanges allow for the transport of dynamically updated information regarding user access rights. Usage monitoring and encryption are also part of the package.

“The idea of using a virtual SIM type of technology over WiFi networks makes sense to me,” Laszlo said. “And it is likely to appeal to carriers.”

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