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Mind Share
September 2002

Marc Robins

Wi-Fi Telephony Revisited


Judging by the large amount of e-mails and phone calls Ive been getting about my July Mind Share column on wireless Internet telephony, Im not alone in my passion about this emerging new space, nor am I the only one hungry for additional information.

As Ive been traveling down the road of discovery (many thanks to the many readers who sent me information about other companies and products that play in this space), Ive come across a bunch of additional contenders worth mentioning (two of which are covered in this column).

For those of you starved for some market research, Ive also uncovered a market study from research company Instat/MDR (http://www.instat.com) entitled Voice over Wireless LAN: 802.11x Hears the Call for Wireless VoIP that provides some valuable insight into the WiFi Telephony phenomenon. According to the report, additional demand from verticals such as education, healthcare, retail, and logistics will help the overall Voice over Wireless LAN market expand to over 80,000 handset shipments in 2002, a significant jump from the 20,000 shipments in 2001. Furthermore, Instat/MDR reports that annual shipments of Voice over 802.11x handsets are expected to pass half a million units by 2006, accounting for revenues of over a quarter of a million annually. The report includes market shares for wireless handsets, a five-year forecast for the 802.11x wireless handset market, analysis of market drivers, and vendor profiles.

Spectralinks NetLink System
The two primary vendors in the WiFi Telephony handset market, Symbol (covered in my last column on this subject) and Spectralink (www.spectralink.com), have partnered with PBX, wireless LAN, and LAN telephony vendors to sell their products. Spectralink has recently been experiencing rapid growth, in large part due to its partnership with Cisco (and recently Avaya) to sell its NetLink IP Wireless phones.

The NetLink system consists of up to three of the following components: NetLink Telephony Gateway, NetLink SVP Server, and the NetLink Wireless Telephone. A NetLink Telephony Gateway is needed only for connections to a legacy PBX; interfaces to IP PBXs do not require a gateway.

The NetLink Telephony Gateway is connected to analog or digital station ports on a telephone switch (Avaya, Siemens HiPath and Hicom systems, and a number of other PBX brands are supported.) When a call destined for a NetLink Wireless Telephone is received, the NetLink Telephony Gateway converts the PBX call to Internet Protocol (IP) packets and sends them out over the customers 802.11b wireless LAN (Agere, Alvarion, Avaya, Cisco, Enterasys Networks, Intermec, Psion, and Symbol WLAN solutions are supported.) The NetLink Wireless Telephone then receives the voice packets and assembles the conversation. Voice quality is the main function of the NetLink SVP Server, which employs proprietary wireless QoS. SpectraLink Voice Priority (SVP) ensures that voice packets have priority over data packets on the wireless network.

IP Blues VTGO! IPAQ Softphone
IP Blue (www.ipblue.com) is a communications software company based in New York City that specializes in packet voice and VoIP solutions for the financial services, call center, and remote access markets. The companys VTGO! Softphone application is a $169 software product designed for the HP iPAQ running Pocket PC version 2002 and is fully compatible with Ciscos Call Manager Platform. In addition to support of G.711, VTGO! also runs Ciscos SCCP (Skinny) protocol for high-quality voice services over 802.11b wireless networks. According to IP Blue, the company will be shipping VTGO! on the CD for the new HP iPAQ shortly.

Telephony features supported by VTGO! include make/answer calls, shared line support, hold, transfer, auto answer, call forwarding, DTMF Pad with tone feedback, calling party name display, last party number display, last number redial, last ten number redial, alternative ringing tones, message waiting indication, missed call indication, mutable mic, mutable speaker, speed call list, time display, and volume controls.

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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