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Japan’s number one carrier offers 3G/VoIP Linux phone

Nov 19, 2004 — by Henry Kingman — from the LinuxDevices Archive

NTT DoCoMo and its regional subsidiaries are now offering business subscribers a dual-network 3G/VoIP handset that works as a 3G mobile phone, VoIP (voice-over-IP) terminal, or both simultaneously. The N900iL is based on a Linux-based 3G mobile phone software platform developed jointly by NEC and Panasonic.

(Click for larger view of NEC N900iL)

NTT DoCoMo says the N900iL uses its “passage duple” system for dual-network operation. It can operate as a 3G mobile phone under NTT's W-CDMA 3G network, or as a VoIP phone with SIP (session initiation protocol) control under wireless 802.11b networks. Or, it can be set up for dual-mode operation under both kinds of network simultaneously, NTT DoCoMo says.

NTT DoCoMo markets its 3G wireless network services under the brandname “FOMA,” or “Freedom of Mobile-multimedia Access.” 3G network services provide Internet access at broadband speeds. Although NTT DoCoMo is Japan's largest mobile carrier, the company has lagged in 3G subscriber uptake, possibly due to the high cost of the Symbian-based phones it has previously offered. NTT DoCoMo announced in December of 2003 that it would adopt Linux for its future 3G phones.

NTT DoCoMo has also looked at using Linux on the other end of its FOMA network. It evaluated a Carrier Grade Linux switch developed by NEC in September.

When used in wireless LAN mode, the N900iL supports call hold, call transfer, and other standard phone functions, the company says. N900iL users on the same LAN can send instant text messages to one another, and check one another's status with a “callee status function.” Status information includes whether the callee is on- or off-line, in a meeting, out of the office, on a business trip, etc. Users can also browse lists of other local users.

When used in FOMA mode, the phone can tunnel through firewalls to access enterprise applications, using VPN (virtual private network) technology.

NTT DoCoMo lists approximate battery life as follows:

  • Standby:
    • 3G operation —
      • 350 hours (when phone is stationary)
      • 270 hours (when phone is moving)
    • Wireless LAN operation — 230 hours
    • Dual mode operation — 150 hours
  • Continuous talk time:
    • 3G operation — 140 minutes
    • VoIP operation — 160 minutes
  • Continuous video calling: (screenshot) 140 minutes

The N900iL includes two LCD displays. The main display is a 2.2-inch QVGA (320 x 240) TFT LCD supporting 65,536 colors. The secondary display is a 0.96-inch semi-transparent STN display with a resolution of 30 x 120, supporting 4,096 colors.

The phone includes a built-in camera, and includes the option of a higher resolution camera add-on. The internal camera is based on a CCD (charge coupled device with an effective resolution of 110,000 pixels. The external camera is based on a 2 megapixel CCD, but has an effective resolution of 1 megapixel.

The phone includes a miniSD memory card explansion slot. It measures 4 x 1.9 x 1 includes (102 x 48 x 27 mm) when folded, excluding the camera attachment. It weighs 4.3 ounces (120 grams).

The N900iL is based on a software platform for 3G mobile phones jointly developed by NEC and Panasonic. The platform is based on MontaVista Linux. Two additional phones based on the platform are expected to ship soon in Japan.

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