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Linux-based WiFi phone uses open-source connection kit

Dec 12, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Belkin is shipping a WiFi phone based on Linux and Skype's proprietary VoIP (voice-over-IP) client. The Belkin WiFi Phone for Skype can use open or encrypted WiFi networks, and connects seamlessly at commercial hotspots and hot zones operated by Boingo, Belkin says.

(Click for larger view of the Belkin WiFi Phone for Skype)

The Belkin WiFi phone is based on Accton's VM1185T reference design, which includes hardware and a software stack based on Linux an Qtopia. The device is available initially in English, Chinese, and Korean, with other languages to be added later. It comes with a Skype client preinstalled, and is designed for use with Boingo's $8-per-month “Boingo Mobile” service, which offers unlimited access, the companies said.

In addition to commercial Boingo hotspots, the Belkin phone also works with open 802.11b/g networks, and supports WPA and WPA2 with PSK security.

The Belkin phone includes software aimed at detecting Boingo hotspots in the background, associating with them, and then authenticating — thus proving users with seamless connectivity and roaming, without requiring them to punch in passwords and credit cards each time. Belkin developed the software using Boingo's open-source Embedded WiFi Toolkit, released last May.

Boingo Embedded WiFi Toolkit

The Boingo Embedded WiFi Toolkit aims to enable browser-less embedded devices such as cameras, media players, and WiFi phones to connect to Boingo's commercial networks, which typically use nocat auth or similar technology to enforce browser-based registration. The software can also serve as a convenience on devices equipped with browsers, helping designers create devices that interoperate smoothly with the vast Boingo network and Boingo Mobile service.

Boingo's Embedded Toolkit components and interfaces
(Click to enlarge)

The Boingo Toolkit comprises a “toolkit” library licensed under the GNU LGPL (Lesser General Public License), along with a platform abstraction layer and application layer, both licensed under the Apache 2.0 open source license.

Boingo says Belkin's Skype phone is the first pure WiFi phone to integrate its Embedded Toolkit technology. However, smartphone pioneer E28 created a Boingo agent for its dual-mode, Linux-based handsets back in May, shortly after the kit was released to open source.

Chris Andrews, business unit manager at Belkin, stated, “Boingo's free open source code enables us to create a product with a compelling set of features without onerous licensing agreements or fees.”

Jonathan Mendelson, Boingo director of handset strategy, expects “VoIP phones [to] be followed by WiFi enabled mobile phones and other devices [for] text messaging, streaming video, multi-player gaming, and [more].”

Boingo claims to be the world's largest hotspot provider, with 60,000 points of presence, including truck stops, hotels, airports, cafes, and other public places. The company also maintains “hot zones” covering entire metropolitan areas, it says.


Belkin's WiFi phone for Skype is available now, at street prices below $200. The Boingo Embedded Toolkit is currently available for Linux, BREW, Windows Mobile 2003, and Windows Mobile 5, with other OSes to follow in 2007, according to Boingo.

Meanwhile, 802.11 middleware specialist DeviceScape yesterday began beta testing an automatic network connection utility and service said to work with FON, Google WiFi, and T-Mobile HotSpot USA public hotspots.

Skype also based it's own WiFi VoIP phone (pictured at right) on Linux.

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