YOU ARE AT:Archived ArticlesVendors start to pay attention to voice over WLAN

Vendors start to pay attention to voice over WLAN

In two major announcements last week, Nortel Networks Ltd. and Alcatel Alsthom demonstrated the kind of attention the wireless industry is paying to voice over wireless local area networks.

Alcatel said it has raised the bar in converged networks in the wireless LAN arena, while Nortel said it has brought a slew of functionality unparalleled in the industry. The common denominator in both releases is Internet Protocol capability.

The two vendors join companies like Cisco Systems Inc., Proxim Wireless Networks Inc. and startup Meru Networks Inc. in the WLAN space and claim their voice quality will rival that of landline telephony, with all the functions.

“It comes with a high level of security and mobility and resiliency for an end-to-end converged network,” said Diane Schmidt, director of marketing for WLAN at Nortel Networks.

Alcatel expressed its advantage differently. “We offer multiple services onto fewer platforms and fewer infrastructures,” said Brian Witt, director of product marketing.

But the networks will not work with the handsets of familiar device makers like Nokia Corp., Motorola Inc. or Samsung Electronics. Cisco has its own phone-the Cisco IP phone 7920 announced last year. Boulder, Colo.-based SpectraLink Inc. is providing IP phones for Nortel, Alcatel and Cisco.

“The real issue is on the terminal side, not the networks,” said Fritz Jordan, analyst with MobileTrax, explaining that the device in the wireless LAN space is still the laptop, and adoption of the handset has yet to gain much interest.

He said the handset space is not SpectraLink’s forte, comparing the company to Symbol Technologies Inc., whose focus is on the verticals.

“When will the big vendors like Nokia or Motorola come into the market?” he asked. “It’s not a hard technical matter. I just don’t see a lot of consumers yet.”

Schmidt said Nortel’s VoWLAN solution is adaptive and takes total control over the radio-frequency domain, monitoring activities from the endpoint to the access point.

“We can pick up transmission and also roam,” she said, describing it as a self-correcting system. She said the phones will have the same range of voice features, up to 400, as their desktop counterparts. Nortel plans to unveil these products in the spring, she said.

Markets that could find Nortel’s products compelling are those where cellular phones do not operate well, such as in the healthcare sector, retail organizations and warehouses. “These are areas that cannot run cellular networks,” said Schmidt.

Some verticals already are using similar products but without the wide range of functionality, encompassing wired pipes with its slew of offerings, wireless capabilities with 802.11a, b and g, as well as voice over Internet Protocol.

Witt said Alcatel brings its offering under a platform that caters to enterprise and mobility needs. The platform is the unified communications system for PCs and PBX.

Challenges for Voice over WLAN systems include availability, security, seamless mobility and policy-based operations, Witt said. On the device side, he said Alcatel combines phones that run on DECT and PWT systems with the ones that run on VoIP. DECT is a voice-only standard on the European market, while PWT is its American counterpart. Nortel has done away with its PWT offerings and Cisco has never implemented them.

Alcatel is at an advantage because it shores up VoWLAN’s limitations in the number of voice users and relies also on earlier PWT and DECT standards, Witt said. VoWLAN devices are still expensive and do not scale like DECT and PWT, he added.


Editorial Reports

White Papers


Featured Content