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Trio Plots Roaming Accord

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
7/28/2004

Avaya Inc. (NYSE: AV), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and Proxim Corp. (Nasdaq: PROX) will soon announce the formation of a new industry group, aimed at standardizing some of the work the threesome has done on improving the handoff times between wireless LAN and cellular networks.

The group will be concerned with developing a specification for seamless converged communications across networks (SCAN), so that dual-mode WiFi/cellular phones can be used on both wide area and local area wireless network.

According to Mack Leathurby, marketing director of technical alliances at Avaya, the group could look beyond wireless LAN integration and examine roaming between established wireless network technologies and new standards such as ultrawideband and WiMax.

Avaya et al. haven’t taken the wraps off the new industry group yet. Leathurby says that a “couple of major players” are getting involved and the group will be officially unveiled soon.

We here at Unstrung know what you’re thinking, dear reader.

Oh gawd, not another industry standards group.

But developing a standard is fairly crucial, if Avaya, Motorola, and Proxim are to build on the concept of seamless roaming between different network types.

The trio have announced a dual-mode WLAN/GSM phone, developed by Motorola, which can be used with a new, centralized WLAN controller and lightweight access points, co-developed by Avaya and Proxim. This hardware is combined with Avaya software that handles the handoff between the access points and Motorola code that allows roaming between access points.

Leathurby says that handoff time between access points is 50 milliseconds.

The trouble is that at the moment – to take full advantage of the VOWLAN roaming – users really need to buy into the entire system. Leathurby says that the kit will work with other 802.11 gear, but if customers have older access points already in place they should consider the products from Avaya et al. as an “overlay network,” with the legacy network handling data and the new stuff handling voice.

As Farpoint Group analyst Craig Mathais says, this makes the system from Motorola and friends something of a “closed loop” at present.

The wireless trio needs to get other phone/devices vendors and infrastructure manufacturers to support their roaming mechanisms if they hope to see widespread adoption of the technology. — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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