With practically everyone losing their minds these days over feature rich phones boasting everything from Bluetooth to PDA to Music/Video Player functionality, it would seam a foregone conclusion that WiFi will be the next “Must Have” in any new cellular device. And why not – with free and low cost hotspots dotting the landscape around the globe; it’s only logical that consumers should be able to take advantage of this ubiquitous 802.11 goodness?


Sounds cool, right. Now that your even more convinced of your need for a WiFi enabled mobile – prepare for your hopes to be dashed. Here is the dirty little secret that your mobile carrier doesn’t want you know; WiFi is not a welcome addition to their business model. Think about it? If you are able to access your favorite services like web, email and (heaven forbid) VOIP via free WiFi access points, what do you need those expensive voice and data plans for?


Skype on your mobile phone plus WiFi equals no revenue for carriers. Up till now the relatively limited number of higher cost PDA style phones capable of running both WiFi and a VOIP client have posed enough of a bearer to entry so that wireless providers have been low key about the threat. However, as more next generation handsets begin to offer WiFi at lower price points, a whole new front on the consumer rights war is about to open between carriers and customers. Cell providers, who already infuriate consumers with costly contracts and locked phones, are not about to lose out on potential revenue on both voice and data services – not without a fight at least.


In addition to the financial threat that WiFi enabled phones pose to wireless providers, there is the intangible marketing value they place at risk. With WiFi enabled phones, arguments that carries like to squabble over, like Edge vs EVDO, become irrelevant. Since even the slowest 802.11 speeds are multiples faster then any “3G” technologies on the horizon. Why do I care if my network is 1XRTT or GSM-GPRS, I’m not going to use them anyway.


Screwed again! Since WiFi enabled phones pose such a clear and present danger to the established wireless providers, you can be certain that they will oppose them, or if they do provide them the best interoperability functions will be crippled. Since the vast majority of cell phones are purchased from, or in conjunction with wireless carriers these “nerfed” or crippled mobile devices will have limited value to consumers. Which truly does beg the question, “What’s So Great About WiFi?”