Cover Story

The Next Radio WAVE: Twisted Pair Enables Unified Communications among Disparate Wireless Endpoints

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  June 01, 2011

The assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, which President Obama and other key U.S. officials witnessed from Washington, D.C. in real time via video, demonstrated how far we have come in using advanced communications.

But sometimes just getting everybody on the same frequency can be a challenge. That became clear a decade ago this September when first responders in New York City were unable to communicate via radio because fire fighters, police and other emergency workers had incompatible radio solutions.

A company called Twisted Pair Solutions (News - Alert), however, has a product that enables different radios – whether analog or digital, and from any equipment provider – to talk to one another. In another move forward for unified communications, Twisted Pair recently unleashed version 5.1 of its WAVE (News - Alert) solution.

Twisted Pair got its start back in 1999 when its two founders were looking at VoIP as a way to improve trading in the financial market, explains James Mustarde, director of marketing. At the time, the cost of trading floors and leased lines were going through the roof, he says. New York financial institutions had employed VoIP when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, he adds, so they experienced the benefits of its redundancy. Twisted Pair took all of the above as indicators that it could do more with WAVE on the unified communications front.

While unified communications is great at enabling workers to manage their communications and more easily keep in contact with colleagues, UC in most cases fails to address how you keep mobile workers and other workers in the loop, says Mustarde. What happens, he asks, if you have a worker or military personnel in the field with a two-way analog radio and he or she needs to speak to a colleague on an analog radio? This, he says, is the real world of communications.

 “If you can’t really talk to them, it kind of makes [stuff like presence] a moot point,” Mustarde adds.

By using IP, he adds, WAVE allows anybody on any device is able to talk to anybody else on the planet. WAVE is a pure software platform that includes applications that can sit on PCs or smartphones or other endpoints; also part of the solution is software that can sit on an enterprise server or in the cloud to create connections. (The company introduced its cloud-based offer, called WAVE Connections, this spring. WAVE Connections, for which setting up an account is free, turns a smartphone into a proxy for push-to-talk capability to any device.)

“You can come to the table and you can put whatever you have on the table, and if you have the authority to do so” you can take that audio or whatever communications off the table, says Mustarde.

WAVE comes with AES-256 encryption, but that users can also leverage a software developer kit to add their own encryption of other features to the solution.

The military represents the largest Twisted Pair customer. The Air Force, Army, Navy and special ops each have hundreds of thousands of licenses for WAVE.

But, Mustarde adds, that there are plenty of enterprises, like companies in the gas industry, which have huge mobile workforces that also use WAVE. Such organizations have people using everything from cell phones to various types of specialized radio devices, and those businesses would like to enable those endpoints to communicate with one another. With WAVE, he emphasizes, these companies don’t have to invest in new devices, they can extend the communications capability of their existing endpoints – whether those endpoints are field radios, old Nokia (News - Alert) cell phones, or the latest in smartphone technology.

What does this all have to do with UC? Mustarde says that WAVE is essentially voice over IP with a preference for radio. At the end of the day, he says, it’s data that manifests itself in most cases as audio, but it also could be used for GPS or for video. While Twisted Pair is focused on video, it does have a distribution network that can get video where it needs to go, and with appropriate permissions, the ability to enable people to view it.

Also of note is that Twisted Pair last month introduced a plug in for Lync. WAVE Lync Communicator extends the functionality of Lync, which his Microsoft’s (News - Alert) UC solution, by adding push-to-talk connectivity between office-based users and their mobile colleagues who are using two-way radios or smartphones. Using the Lync client, individuals can see who is where in their organizations and allows for call set up.

So, to go full circle on all of the above, you might be wondering if the first responders in New York City are currently using WAVE, or plan to do so in the near future. The answer is that the jury is still out on that one.

Mustarde tells Unified Communications (News - Alert) Magazine that it has suggested its product for that application. But he adds that creating a system linking different radios in the Big Apple has become something of a political football. Some entities want to allocate a segment of the radio spectrum for this purpose and then build solutions to suit that, he says, but that would be an expensive fix.

However, Twisted Pair already has had great success with all of the airports around Washington, D.C., and as of last April was in discussions with one of the largest Southern states, which was looking to unify communications over its radios statewide.

Edited by Rich Steeves