Optical/IP Networks

Voice Over WLAN Gets the Nod

The recent hype surrounding the emergence of voice-over-wireless- LAN technology is fully justified, to judge by the results of Unstrung’s latest poll (see Voice Over Wireless LAN – A Heavenly Union?). The vast majority (84 percent) of respondents expect to deploy the technology either “now” or at “some point” in the future, with 31 percent of readers citing cheaper cell phone bills as the main attraction.

Other catalysts for future success include its ability to “replace internal wired networks” (20 percent) and the “integration of voice with other computer applications” (22 percent).

The results strengthen the business case for those early adopters already operating in this space, as they attempt to tout the benefits of using wireless LAN as a conduit for packetized voice data (see Is 802.11 Ready for VOIP?).

Earlier this year Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) made a show of its first wireless LAN-based phone; and last month switch startup Airespace Inc. made its first move into the market, announcing 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 (see Airespace Talks Up VOIP).

Meanwhile handset maker Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) plans to enter the market by the middle of next year, with a device that supports both cellular and VOIP calls (see Motorola Plots WLAN VOIP Move).

Research house In-Stat/MDR also estimates a thriving market for the technology, up from $16.5 million in end-user revenue in 2002 to $507 million in 2007.

Despite the market’s potential, respondents believe that the biggest barrier to success remains the lack of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) approval for the 802.11e standard, now tagged for next summer at the earliest. 35 percent of readers claim that a “lack of standardized QOS mechanisms for 802.11” is the key stumbling block to market growth, with “cumbersome handoff between access points” also winning attention (24 percent).

In terms of the user device, most respondents (58 percent) believe an “integrated cell phone and WLAN” product is the ideal voice over wireless gadget, with a “PDA soft phone” the next most favored option, taking 22 percent of the vote.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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