Cisco Speaks Enterprise
The networking giant has teamed up with Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), and BlackBerry to implement new software updates for wireless voice applications called Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX), designed to be used in conjunction with Cisco WLAN gear.
Like Cisco's original CCX wireless security extensions, introduced in February 2004, the updates will be implemented at the system level on client devices and chipsets, promising power-saving capabilities, better roaming, and improved call prioritization, as well as improvements to sound quality thanks to reduced "packet jitter."
"These are critical upgrades to get to voice-over-wireless LAN," Ben Gibson, director of wireless and mobility marketing at Cisco, tells Unstrung.
"The key to successful voice deployement is QOS end-to-end, and if you don't have it end-to-end then you're in trouble," agrees Gary Goerke, information systems manager at Farmington Hills, Mich.-based real estate firm Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust. "A residental user can stand a lesser performance for a cheaper price -- a business user doesn't have near the tolerance." Equally critical is network latency, which the Cisco initiative purports to address.
"Voice has unique requirements, not the least of which is a critical need to avoid latency," adds Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group , "and they appear to be pushing extensions that let the network optimize itself for voice traffic."
This sort of capability is only possible with extensions on the client side that can "talk" to the wireless LAN network. In essence, Cisco is once again using its weight in the enterprise marketplace to drive what some would call de-facto standards.
"Cisco is incredibly aggressive on voice and is already arguably the company that owns VOIP," says Enderle. "They are working to consolidate and strengthen that ownership."
The move could shake up others in the marketplace.
"Cisco, because of its size and weight in the industry can drive some of these 'standards,'" says Jack Gold, of J.Gold Associates. "Of course, this means that Alcatel, Avaya, Nortel and others may decide to do their own things in competition to Cisco, causing some confusion in the market, and potentially causing a lack of product interaction/compatibility, which [exists] already in this marketplace."
Cisco's Gibson says that compatibility fears are unfounded and that "a non-CCX WiFi handset will work with a Cisco network, and vice versa.
"This is all standards-based," he adds.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung