Optical/IP Networks

Nokia Plans VOWLAN Move

LONDON – Public W-LAN 2003 – Finnish handset maker Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is to enter the voice-over-wireless-LAN market in the next few months with a device that supports both cellular and VOIP calls, according to industry speculation at today’s Public W-LAN event in London.

“I believe that somewhere in the Q1 timeframe there will be a voice-over-wireless LAN phone from Nokia,” Jan Buis, wireless LAN market and technology advisor at Dutch consultancy JBTD, told conference delegates.

Nokia itself is not in denial. “We certainly have plans for this space,” comments Mika Kasslin, manager at Nokia's research center. “I cannot give specifics, but we wouldn’t be working in this area if we weren’t planning on launching something.”

The move by Nokia could beat a similar plan by chief rival Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) to enter the market by the middle of next year (see Motorola Plots WLAN VOIP Move).

Earlier this year Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) also made a show of its first wireless LAN-based phone, followed by claims from NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY; Tokyo: 6701) to offer voice-over-wireless-LAN handsets from the outset of its entry into the corporate wireless LAN market (see Is 802.11 Ready for VOIP? and NEC Gears Up for WLANs).

Other recent activity in this space includes switch startup Airespace Inc.'s announcement of an 802.11 handset deal with SpectraLink Corp. and a partnership with Vocera Communications Inc., a company that makes 802.11 voice gateway software and wearable communicators. Wireless LAN equipment manufacturer Netgear Inc. (Nasdaq: NTGR) has also announced plans to support basic voice-over-wireless-LAN functionality (see Airespace Talks Up VOIP and Netgear Shifts Up for VOIP).

The presence of the world’s leading handset manufacturers and industry players will add weight to the growing hype around voice over wireless LAN (see Voice Over WLAN Gets the Nod). A recent Unstrung Insider report notes the "extremely limited" choice of handsets currently available, stating that the availability of cheaper devices is crucial if enterprise voice-over-wireless-LAN applications are to take off (see Voice Over WLAN Ups Stakes).

“The market for dedicated 802.11 VOIP phones will surely grow, but unless volumes ramp up massively, the aesthetics improve, and the choice of handset designs widens substantially, it's hard to see widespread adoption of workaday applications in vertical markets,” comments report author Gabriel Brown.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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