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Getting Users Turned Onto IP Telephony: Office Anywhere

By Tony Rybczynski


IP telephony can enhance your desktop experience through a converged desktop, but whats in it for you and other end users in your business unit when you are away from your desk? IP telephony, in fact, can bring you unprecedented mobility options.

Mobility used to mean a cell phone and possibly one or more mobile data devices, such as a PDA or pager. If you traveled with your laptop, you were always on the search for connectivity back to the head office.

Office Anywhere
The emergence of ubiquitous broadband wired and wireless connectivity (via wired and wireless Ethernet, DSL and cable modem access, and third-generation public cellular) has changed all that, enabling the realization of taking your office anywhere. And were not just talking about e-mail and instant messaging, SIP-based communications, including IP telephony and multimedia, allows you to take your office wherever you are and delivers a consistent, reliable, secure communications experience. It also provides you with controls over who can contact you, how, and when.

There are three general classes of mobile users, though the boundaries among these classes are not rigid. Users can be nomadic in the sense that they go from place to place and want connectivity when they get there. Users can be locally mobile either within the locale of their work place (e.g., leveraging wireless LANs or WLANs), and mobile anywhere, leveraging WLAN hot spots and public broadband wireless services.

In all cases, you can choose which single mobile device you use for real-time communications and data access, using software IP telephony/multimedia clients to attain a consistent experience in accessing information, communicating and collaborating, no matter where they are. You may have a choice in hands-free, wired, or wireless headset, and push-to-talk. The level of standalone functionality is device dependent, with data synchronization provided when connected. The form factor of the mobile device can fit the job, including screen size and ruggedness and even battery life. Voice quality and adequate application bandwidth needs to be delivered even when roaming, along with security, privacy and confidentiality.

Lets look at these three types of mobile users.

Nomadic users are very well served by laptops, which can be plugged into a docking station or use an Ethernet plug or a WLAN connection. Equipped with a multimedia client and twinned with the desktop phone, these can deliver rich multimedia capabilities. Security is provided through VPN technology whether connected via an on-site WLAN or over the Internet via DSL, a cable modem, a hotel Ethernet plug, or a home or hot spot WLAN connection.

Locally mobile or campus mobile workers, whether functional specialists, such as nurses or store clerks, or knowledge workers, require mobile devices that provide WLAN voice and data roaming across the building. These generally take the form of WiFi phone handsets with small displays and possibly with push-to-talk functionality, and VoIP-enabled PDAs, possibly equipped with built-in or peripheral devices, such as barcode readers, RFID scanners, and printers. Having a multimedia client can provide collaborative capabilities including presence and instant messaging, control over call routing, and access to corporate directories.

Battery life and recharge times, and talking and standby times are particularly critical for heavy usage environments, such as hospitals. Given that battery life, for WLAN connectivity, is still a constraint for some applications, sub-optimal dual-device solutions may be required. This could consist of, for example, a WLAN handset and a tablet PC on a cart in healthcare, or a WLAN handset and a specialized non-networked handheld data-capture device in retail.

Mobile anywhere workers with broad off-site mobility needs are looking for comprehensive capabilities in a single device. While mobility has become an essential competitive capability, escalating costs for public mobile services is a major enterprise concern, this being addressed through tighter IT management of this environment. One benchmark device is the voice-enabled Blackberry equipped with a SIP client, supporting secure e-mail and real-time converged communications including Instant Messaging, personal agents, and presence. Increased choice is emerging with similar functionality on other platforms such as Pocket PC devices.

Knowledge workers with on- and off-site requirement will be best served by dual-mode devices supporting both public wireless and WLAN capabilities. This provides the advantage of higher speed data connectivity when on-site. It also allows the enterprise to decrease the cost associated with using public wireless services to make and receive calls when roaming the premise (given that up to 50 percent of calls are received or originated on-site). Seamless roaming will allow users to move freely between the WLAN and public cellular environments without session interruption.

The Need For Partnership With IT
IT has the overall responsibility for establishing and evolving the enterprise IP telephony and real-time converged communications infrastructure, and needs to address security, support and management, networking implications including public gateways and WLAN coverage, and standardization. Therefore IT needs to work with end users and with business units across the enterprise, to ensure that the benefits of IP Telephony, mobility and multimedia collaboration are realized. IT

Tony Rybczynski is Director of Strategic Enterprise Technologies at Nortel (quote - news - alerts). He has over 30 years experience in the application of packet network technology. For more information, please visit

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