By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Cordless-phone vendors will try to beat back declining unit and dollar sales at next month's CES by embracing two rival telecommunications technologies — Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and cellular — more firmly than ever.
While cordless vendors have long acknowledged the impact of mobile phones on handset designs and styles, cordless feature sets will borrow heavily from cellular competition. Several major manufacturers, for example, will incorporate for the first time — or expand their selection of products — with downloadable ringtones, large color LCD screens, icon-based menus, photo caller ID and slim form factors.
Cordless vendors will also take the next logical step by integrating cellular phones directly into landline products, as Thomson recently did with its RCA-branded cellphone docking station (see TWICE, Dec. 6, p. 43). Several other cordless manufacturers will offer products with a similar ability to place cellular and landline calls using a multi-handset cordless phone system, albeit with several differences in how the two technologies connect.
Cordless dealers will also embrace rapidly emerging VoIP technology. Although the technology exploded into the retail market this year, it has done so on the backs of data equipment such as modems, terminal adapters and Internet routers from traditional data suppliers such as D-Link, Motorola, Netgear and Linksys, among others.
In 2005, cordless makers will dive into the VoIP equipment market. Uniden has already announced plans to demonstrate a multi-handset system with the analog-to-digital terminal adapter built into the base station. The company will demonstrate its VoIP solution at the show using its two-line TRU5885 5.8GHz digital system connected to a cable modem and delivering VoIP calling to its accessory handsets.
Uniden's CEO Al Silverberg said the company is currently evaluating potential VoIP service-provider partners. Uniden has a strategic VoIP partnership with circuit board maker Centillium Communications, which is a member of AT&T's VoIP Innovation and Interoperability Program, but Uniden has not formally announced a partnership with AT&T.
Some manufacturers will come to CES with VoIP partnerships in hand. Their cordless VoIP phones will be preprogrammed to access a specific VoIP network. Other companies will demonstrate the technology without formally tying the knot with a service provider.
While vendors will increase their 5.8GHz analog and digital lineups, the show will sound a close-to-final death knell for 900MHz products. Many leading vendors will either discontinue their 900MHz product lines in 2005 or retain a single price leader model for value retailers.
As a result, vendors will center on the higher priced 2.4GHz digital phones, 5.8GHz analog and digital phones, and multi-handset bundles.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.