Symbian unveils FreeWay for speedier mobile phones

CEO says new network architecture brings "the equivalent of your home broadband to your pocket." It's got onramps to Super 3G and WiMax, too.

Symbian on Tuesday announced several enhancements to its mobile platform, including technology to let mobile phones switch seamlessly between different kinds of Internet connections.

FreeWay, which becomes standard as of Symbian version 9.5, is a new network architecture aimed at supporting current and future high-bandwidth data technologies, such as Super 3G and WiMax. According to Symbian Chief Executive Nigel Clifford, it will bring "low latency, low jitter and absolutely crystal-clear VoIP calls" to the popular smartphone platform.

"We are bringing the equivalent of your home broadband to your pocket," Clifford told delegates at the Symbian Smartphone Show in London. Tony Newpower, the company's director of product area management, said that while operators and handset manufacturers would ultimately decide how flexible implementations will be, FreeWay would offer potential cost savings and more efficient connectivity for users.

For example, suggested Newpower, a user might be able to start a download in a coffee shop via the shop's Wi-Fi connection, continue that download via HSDPA while traveling, and complete it through his or her home Wi-Fi connection once the journey is finished. As to whether the user would be alerted to a change in connection--essential for those roaming abroad so as to avoid high data charges--Newpower said this would be a configurable option.

FreeWay would also broaden compatibility for application developers, Newpower added, because they would not have to rewrite their applications for different types of connectivity.

"The thing that is novel is that you now have three planes through the stack (rather than two)," said Viki Turner, FreeWay's chief architect. "You have the data plane, the control plane, and we have now introduced the management plane for things like bearer mobility."

Turner told CNET sister site ZDNet UK that the technology would support very high-bandwidth mobile connectivity, such as the 100Mbps connections that Japanese operators are hoping to have in place within the next few years.

Also announced at the event was ScreenPlay, a new graphics architecture designed to support high-definition video streaming while scaling the quality up or down depending on the hardware acceleration built into the handset, and symmetric multiprocessing, a performance management technology developed in collaboration with the chipset manufacturer ARM.

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