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Mind Share
July 2002

Marc Robins

Packet Telephony's No-Wire Act


With a profusion of innovative wireless LAN solutions making their way into enterprises of every stripe, it should come as little surprise that some very smart people see big opportunity in what was left out of the original WLAN equation.

As Wi-Fi hot spots proliferate, momentum is building for the various applications that take advantage of the bandwidth and anywhere, anytime connectivity that Wi-Fi delivers. While wireless corporate e-mail access is still on the tip of everyones tongue as the big market driver, there is another application that is also on the top of the killer app heap and it is none other than tried and true voice communications.

It makes too much sense to simply ignore: As more and more professionals start toting their wireless handheld computers wherever they go; with enterprise-wide Wi-Fi solutions providing seamless access to e-mail and a wealth of corporate data; it is only natural to also want wireless access to corporate voice services.

Ill go a step further It is high time for mobile, standards-based voice solutions that leverage the telecom infrastructure we have in place at our companies. In fact, its amazing to me that we are so behind the eight ball on this. Think about the phones you use at home chances are 99.9 percent that they are of the portable 900 MHz ilk. Now think about the phones you currently use at the office. Chances are 99.999 percent that they are tethered to your desk not very handy when you find yourself visiting your desk for a few minutes out of every workday. Its time our most basic communications technology caught up with our work lives.

A number of companies from voice solutions stalwart Ayava, to datacom leader Cisco, to venerable wireless solutions providers like Symbol Technologies are jumping into the market with Wi-Fi telephony solutions that promise to finally bring enterprise communications into the twenty-first century. There are also hosts of IP softphones (one of which Avaya offers) that are springing up. What follows are just two examples that I believe are on the forefront of this new communications category. It is clearly not meant to be an exhaustive compilation. In fact, if you know of companies and products that play in this space, please let me know about them via e-mail to mrobins@tmcnet.com. We plan on covering this area often and in a much more comprehensive fashion in the coming months.

Avayas IP Softphone For Pocket PC
The Avaya (www.avaya.com) IP Softphone for Pocket PC is a mobility solution that provides full access to all the Avaya MultiVantage call processing features available to an employees personal desktop telephone via a Windows CE handheld device. Avaya MultiVantage is the companys new software-based solution incorporating patented technology for IP telephony.

This software integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Outlook, enabling users to access contact lists and company directories, and perform operations such as auto-dialing from a contact list in the device. The IP Softphone for Pocket PC supports multiple call appearances, single or dual connect options, and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), a software protocol for enabling anyone to locate organizations, individuals, and other resources such as files and devices in a network, whether on the public Internet or on a corporate intranet.

Compaq, now part of HP, was among the first companies using the IP Softphone for Pocket PC on their iPAQ product line.

Symbol Technologies NetVision Phone
Symbol (www.symbol.com) is a pioneer in the Wi-Fi telephony arena, and is without question one of the heavyweights in the marketplace, with the most mature product line available. In fact, the company was recently awarded a patent for telephonic communications for wireless digital devices using wireless local-area networks.

The Symbol patent is for a system that today adds telephonic capability to 802.11, 802.11b, and 802.11a wireless handsets and mobile computing devices. Prior to the invention, telephonic capability and PBX functions like Caller ID, call forwarding, call transfer, and call waiting, were not possible on wireless LAN client devices. With the Symbol patent mobile workers can enjoy enterprise telephony features in the same wireless device being used to also perform data applications and within building locations where cellular coverage is either too costly to reach or not allowed.

The Symbol NetVision family of wireless VoIP appliances NetVision Phone and NetVision Data Phone offers a broad feature set and extensive PBX vendor support. These products, which are being deployed across Symbols vertical enterprise market segments, are 802.11b compliant and operate on H.323 standards-based telephony systems as well as other widely accepted industry call-control protocols. The NetVision Phone is a ruggedized wireless VoIP handset with voice messaging data capabilities. The NetVision Data Phone is a ruggedized wireless VoIP appliance with integrated bar code scanning and Web-client data capabilities.

The Symbol NetVision family of wireless IP appliances connect to the following PBX gateway products over wireless LANs to achieve enterprise telephony features: Cisco Call Manager v3.x/AVVID; Ericsson WebSwitch 2000 & 100 series; Mitel 3800 Application Gateway, and the Nortel Networks Meridian 1, Succession CSE 1000, Meridian SL-100, and Business Communications Manager 2.5.

Marc Robins is Vice President of Publications at TMC and Associate Group Publisher for INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine. Marc has been covering the communications industry since 1980, and his column takes a look at some of the more interesting trends vying for attention in our industry. Please contact Marc with comments at mrobins@tmcnet.com.

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