VoIP Protocols -- Wireless Friendly?
BY RICH WATSON
It is clear from market response that Voice over IP (VoIP) has been
embraced by commercial enterprise and telephony manufacturers alike. Viewed
for some time as a technological curiosity, VoIP was thought to be incapable
of delivering the necessary voice quality and telephony feature set required
by todayï¿½s demanding marketplace. These concerns have now been addressed and
companies are purchasing and deploying more than 10,000 IP-phone handsets
per month. An additional validation of the ï¿½mainstream arrivalï¿½ of VoIP is
the fact that all major telephony vendors have a VoIP solution as part of
their product offerings. VoIP has been accepted by business as a maturing,
viable technology that not only delivers the requisite voice quality and
telephony features, but can be a significant factor in managing telephony
costs across an enterprise. The adoption of VoIP solutions is so rapid that
industry analysts project that deployment of VoIP-only solutions will
outstrip traditional TDM-based PBX solutions within the next three years.
Parallel to the adoption of VoIP has been the enterprise acceptance of
802.11b wireless LANs (WiFi). With the availability of inexpensive high-rate
(11Mbps) wireless data infrastructures, businesses from enterprises to SOHO
have recognized the value in this technology and have begun deploying
Strong acceptance of both WiFi and VoIP by the enterprise signals the
possibility of a new market offering not previously possible: WiFi
Telephony, or WiFi Voice over IP, solutions. WiFi devices are ï¿½standardï¿½
network devices attached to the hard-wired network via wireless base
stations (ï¿½access pointsï¿½), while offering the mobility of wireless handheld
devices. Development of a marketable WiFi telephony solution can now become
While technologically possible, offering a robust wireless telephony
solution may not be as simple, as it might seem. There are many non-obvious
considerations to be made in developing such a solution. This is the first
of several articles focusing on WiFi telephony and discussing the issues of
implementing popular call control protocols in light of wireless specific
One of the first questions to ask is: ï¿½what drives the market for a WiFi
telephony product?ï¿½ The answer is that there are real requirements for
mobile telephony capabilities found in a broad spectrum of industries.
Whether retail, healthcare, hospitality, transportation, or logistics, in
the absence of a WiFi solution, many in these market segments have deployed
wireless solutions consisting of everything from cordless phones (single
base stations), to PCS cellular phones, to proprietary RF solutions -- at the
rate of 200,000 phones per year. The benefit of a WiFi telephony solution in
these markets is:
It provides a converged solution on a single RF network. Both voice and
data coexist on a single RF network that is simpler to deploy and manage.
Strong ROI results can be realized in this ï¿½single-networkï¿½ approach.
It provides the best approach to guaranteeing seamless ï¿½in-buildingï¿½
wireless coverage. Single cell solutions and PCS (in-building-WWAN) have
limitations in providing optimal coverage.
Driven by these value-add benefits, you will find these WiFi telephony
solutions available in todayï¿½s market:
ï¿½ Embedded WiFi devices -- There are two currently on the market. It is
expected that additional embedded WiFi telephony solutions will be offered
ï¿½ Softphones -- Many telephony vendors are offering software telephony
solutions that can be run on todayï¿½s high-end wireless PDA devices.
While these mobile WiFi offerings are available today, the total solution
set is somewhat complicated and disjointed. Not all solutions utilize the
same call control protocols and may or may not provide for simple integrated
solutions. Each vendor has approached the WiFi telephony solution slightly
differently and is somewhat bound by the selected call control protocol.
Protocol Alphabet Soup
A ï¿½call controlï¿½ protocol is a layer-3 protocol that typically manages
call setup, call monitoring, and call termination. The most popular
international standard protocols are:
In addition to the international standards defining call control protocols;
there are a host of vendor-specific proprietary VoIP protocols that have
evolved. This is due to the fact that the standards donï¿½t address all the
functional requirements necessary to support an IP-handset. These extended
features include facilities for controlling the phone display and keypad for
management of specific functions accessible by the user. Some of the most
popular vendor solutions are:
- ITU H.323 -- Perhaps the most mature call control protocol and the
predominant call control protocol implemented in VoIP solutions.
- IETF Session Initialization Protocol (SIP) -- Emerging standard challenging
for predominate call control, but still evolving.
- ITU H.248/Megaco -- Another international standard that has been defined
and implemented by a number of vendors.
Subsequent articles in this series will begin to detail some of the
additional challenges related to supporting popular call control protocols
over WiFi networks.
- Ciscoï¿½s Skinny Client Control Protocol (SCCP) ï¿½Base control protocol for
Ciscoï¿½s AVVID VoIP solution.
- Nortelï¿½s UniStim - Base protocol used in support of Nortelï¿½s 2004 IP phone
- Mitelï¿½s MiNET - Base protocol used in support of Mitelï¿½s ICP IP PBX
- Alcatelï¿½s UA - Base protocol used in Alcatelï¿½s IP PBX solutions.
- 3Comï¿½s H3 - Base protocol used in 3Comï¿½s NBX IP PBX solutions.
Richard Watson is director of telephony product marketing for
Symbol Technologiesï¿½ Wireless Systems
Division in San Jose, CA. Prior to taking on the marketing role for Symbolï¿½s
NetVision family of WiFi Telephony products, he managed the software
engineering team for three years and was responsible for developing Symbolï¿½s
WiFi Telephony products.
To The January 2003 Table Of Contents ]