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Optical/IP

Roll On, Wireless VOIP

It's easy to be dismissive about the prospect of running VOIP over wireless LAN to a mobile handset – after all, there are so many barriers to adoption, it's hard to know where to even start to try to put things right.

But that's wrongheadedness, according to this month's Unstrung Insider report: Wireless VOIP: The Path to Enterprise Fixed/Mobile Convergence. Actually, the emergence of dualmode mobile handsets, running VOIP client software from top IP PBX vendors, is set to kickstart the market for wireless VOIP and propel enterprise fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) into the mainstream.

More broadly, a series of high-level partnerships between handset, IP telephony, and WLAN infrastructure vendors is pushing the pace of integration and interoperability.

Most notable on the handset side, so far, are recent commitments by the world's two leading mobile phone vendors – Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) – to develop dualmode phones, running VOIP client software from Avaya Inc. (NYSE: AV) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). But other device manufacturers, including Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, and Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) (Nasdaq: RIMM; Toronto: RIM), are also in the frame for the future.

Moving down a level, a series of alliances between IP PBX and wireless LAN vendors is pushing the pace of the technical integration required to make enterprise wireless VOIP implementations easier and faster to deploy. Examples include:


Add to this list vendors with in-house solutions, namely Cisco – recently strengthened by its acquisition of Airespace – and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), which recently acquired Chantry Networks.

And while the technical value of these partnerships and in-house integration efforts is arguable – isn't that the systems integrator's job? – this kind of high-level, high-profile backing for wireless VOIP is all good from a sales and marketing perspective. Further down the line, there are interesting possibilities for deeper integration between WLAN and enterprise communications applications in the areas of presence, location, and integration of VOIP with line-of-business applications.

From the perspective of the enterprise WLAN infrastructure alone, slow progress on standards-based QOS (802.11e) and fast roaming (802.11r) is offset by vendor-specific enhancements to WLAN systems and the availability of new features, such as the call admission control software modules pioneered by Meru Networks (see Meru Intros VOIP WLAN Module and Meru Wins VOWLAN Deal). Similar software releases are scheduled for release either later this year or early in 2006, from providers including Aruba, Colubris Networks Inc., Symbol Technologies Inc. (NYSE: SBL) and Trapeze.

Speaking of Trapeze, the news that Motorola Ventures has invested in the firm, and explicitly mentioned how WLAN would play a role in Motorola's "seamless mobility" concept, is further evidence of powerful support for enterprise FMC.

Among the early-stage WLAN startups, companies such as Extricom Ltd., with what sounds like an impressive "per-packet adaptive" 802.11 architecture, and Xirrus Inc., with its high-throughput WLAN Array, are also pushing back barriers to wireless VOIP.

But the picture isn't purely one of unfettered technical progress: New challenges lie just over the horizon, with the next phase of convergence – enabling seamless roaming and pushing enterprise features out to the cellular network.

— Gabriel Brown, Chief Analyst, Unstrung Insider

The report, Wireless VOIP: The Path to Enterprise Fixed/Mobile Convergence, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Unstrung Insider, priced at $1,350. Individual reports are available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.unstrung.com/insider.

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