Optical/IP Networks

Cisco's Home-Grown Roam

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) says that it currently has no plans to join a group pursuing a new voice-over-WLAN (VOWLAN) standard from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE), preferring to stick with its own proprietary protocol (see SpectraLink Seeks New Standard).

Many in the industry want the IEEE to develop a new 802.11 standard based on work that has been done by its Fast, Secure Roaming Study Group. The addition of new security code, such as the wireless protected access (WPA) specification, has slowed down the process of handing off calls between network nodes. This makes it difficult to implement time-sensitive applications like VOIP.

Ron Seide, product line manager for Cisco's wireless networking business, says that, although Cisco is monitoring the work at the IEEE, it is happy to stick with its own roaming protocol, which is offered to customers as part of its Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX) program (see Cisco Bolsters Its WLAN Hand).

Naturally, different companies have different takes on what's needed in terms of the speed of the handoff code, which is part of the reason some want a new standard. Seide says the CCX protocol offers handoff times between access points of 150 milliseconds -- or less -- which is "imperceptible to the human ear." SpectraLink Corp. -- a Cisco partner -- is pushing for handoff times of 50ms or less to be mandated as part of an IEEE standard, which it says will enable "corporate quality" VOIP.

Meantime, Clint Chaplin, the Symbol Technologies Inc. (NYSE: SBL) engineer who chairs the Fast, Secure Roaming Study Group, phoned us from the IEEE meeting in Vancouver this week to say that there is still a lot to be done before a standard can be developed. Chaplin confirmed that the IEEE won't vote on forming a Task Group to develop a standard until March (see Roaming Standard Goes Slow).

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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