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Optical/IP

VOWLAN Gets a Kickstart

The slew of recent big-name partnerships in the wireless VOIP space is set to provide a timely boost to the immature voice-over-WLAN (VOWLAN) market and drive demand for enterprise fixed/mobile convergence, according to the latest Unstrung Insider.

The report -- Wireless VOIP: The Path to Enterprise Fixed/Mobile Convergence -- notes just how small the VOWLAN market is today. Report author Gabriel Brown describes it as “miniscule,” with total annual handset sales from the likes of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and SpectraLink Corp. of only $50 million to $100 million.

“VOWLAN is all about potential at this stage," he says. "Relatively speaking, very few handset units are shipping outside of verticals such as healthcare and warehouse-type businesses.”

Despite this slow start, Brown claims that the market is poised for action. Brown points to a number of high-level partnerships among handset, IP telephony, and WLAN infrastructure vendors that, he argues, are likely to ignite the market for wireless VOIP and pave the way for convergence.

Specifically, Brown cites efforts by Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) to develop dualmode phones, running VOIP client software from Avaya Inc. (NYSE: AV). (See Motorola Plots WLAN VOIP Move and Avaya, Nokia Team on FMC.) Elsewhere, a series of alliances between IP PBX vendors and wireless LAN vendors is pushing the pace of the technical integration required to make wireless VOIP implementations easier and faster to deploy. Examples include partnerships between Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Aruba Wireless Networks; and Trapeze Networks Inc. teaming up with Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and 3Com Corp. (Nasdaq: COMS). (See Aruba Allies With Alcatel , Trapeze Swings With Nortel, and 3Com Swings With Trapeze.)

“VOIP support is now a part of all major WLAN infrastructure bids and a major weapon in the sales arsenal, used to justify the price premium for enterprise-grade equipment.”

Such activity is also likely to spur demand for enterprise fixed/mobile convergence. In its most direct form, this involves the integration of VOIP client software from the major IP telephony vendors with high-end, dualmode cellphones. The idea is that the worker could use a dualmode phone, combining 802.11 and cellular technology, to offload voice to the WLAN infrastructure where available, thereby saving money on the cellphone bill.

The idea is already being pushed to consumers, using the same underlying logic. BT Group plc's (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) Fusion project is an obvious example (see BT Unveils FMC Service).

“Strategic partnerships between the leading cellular handset and enterprise IP telephony vendors to develop dualmode, enterprise-focused phones are hugely significant at this stage,” says Brown. “The presence of these A-list companies brings legitimacy to the concept of enterprise fixed/mobile convergence.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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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