Comms chips

Kineto: No QOS Required?

California startup Kineto Wireless, claims to developed a system that will enable carriers to deliver voice over cellular networks and local area wireless technology like 802.11 and Bluetooth.

However, the firm is cocking a snoot at the conventional thinking about delivering VOIP services over wireless LAN networks and the Internet, claiming it is unecessary to implement quality of service (QOS) extensions to ensure the smooth delivery of voice over these networks.

Conventional wisdom holds that it is absolutely crucial to have QOS on wireless LAN networks to ensure that voice traffic gets sent down the pipe before plain ol' data packets. This is supposed to reduce the possibility of bottlenecks in network traffic, which should mean better voice communication (see Is 802.11 Ready for VOIP? for more on this).

Kineto's idea, says marketing VP Ken Kolderup, is to build a box that sits in the mobile operator’s core network and connects to the Internet. On the client side, the firm says that it is working with vendors to add wireless LAN or Bluetooth chips to mobile phones so that when the cellular user walks into the office they switch from the mobile network to the local wireless network, which in turn connects to the Internet, which delivers the call into the carrier’s core network for termination in the usual way.

According to Kineto, the cost of delivering calls in this way is substantially lower than the cost of delivering a call over the wide area radio network. In fact it’s pretty much free, since the user’s wireless LAN and ISP is doing all the work.

The result of this low-cost call delivery method, Kineto says, is that the mobile operator can start offering prices comparable to those of landline and still make a profit without overloading their expensive cellular networks.

Sounds great doesn’t it? But, wondered Unstrung, what about Internet QOS? Everyone knows this is flaky, don’t they? Kolderup thinks not. The difference, he says, from voice calling over the public Internet is that the mobile operator would pick up the call at a big Internet peering point, such as the London Internet Exchange, before it started hopping across routers all over the world (which is what causes dodgy quality of service) and thereby maintain reasonable voice quality. He concedes, however, that they need to prove this in the trials they now have underway with carriers in the U.S. and Europe.

Kineto also disputes the need for QOS extensions to the 802.11 standard to make voice work on wireless LAN. Unstrung asked the firm's CEO John O'Connell about this recently. "It's not an issue," he insisted.

Kineto also needs handset makers to build devices with Bluetooth or wireless LAN inside and to install some custom software to switch the phone between the cellular and short range radios when required. In tests Kolderup says this handover is completely seamless, because the custom software doesn’t release one connection until the other is established. But, he concedes, getting the handset makers to incorporate the Kineto software is a real challenge: “It’s the focus of all our business development activity right now.”

Kineto has raised a total of $24 million, of which $18 million closed in May 2003 in a round led by 3i Group plc.

— Gabriel Brown, Research Analyst, Unstrung

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