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In wireless voice, timing could be everything

Jun 23, 20042 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork Security

* So many ways to make a phone call...

The form factor that business users wind up leveraging for mobile LAN-WAN voice calls might depend more on timing than anything else.

Wireless voice- and convergence-related developments that seem “perpetually imminent” include dual-mode Wi-Fi/cellular handsets and Wi-Fi QoS standards. Depending on what gets standardized, productized and accepted first, organizations may simply opt for what’s doable rather than hanging onto any religious technology conviction.

For example, I’ve long advocated VoIP over wireless LANs to streamline the number of client devices each user must have and to save on cell phone charges. On the other hand, enough time has passed that most cellular carriers now offer flat-rate pricing plans in users’ home territories.

Flat-rate cellular plans are making the pending emergence of dual-mode Wi-Fi/cellular handsets due this year from companies such as Motorola and Nokia and the argument for VoWLAN less compelling – particularly if your organization has not already gone through the significant exercise of shifting to IP telephony on the LAN (a biggee).

In the dual-mode handset space, Motorola may be shipping devices as early as September, as part of its 18-month-old partnership with Proxim and Avaya to bridge the WLAN, local VoIP network and cellular network with seamless voice handoffs as you roam.

Nokia’s 9500 communicator, announced in February, is due to ship in the fourth quarter for about $1,000.

And 802.11e, the 802.11 standard for QoS with priority queues and scheduling, is allegedly due this year, too.

But here is my point: Depending on what gets implemented in a big way soon – VoIP, WLAN QoS, dual-mode Wi-Fi/cellular – users and their organizations will likely opt for what is usable and what they can afford. If an organization hasn’t done VoIP and has a flat-rate cellular plan, it might just use cellular for voice and use the WLAN as a data network.

On the other hand, if an organization has VoIP on the LAN already in place, standard QoS on the WLAN does emerge in products this year, the dual-mode Wi-Fi/cellular handsets do show up, and there are VoWLAN savings to be had, enterprises might go that route.

As we have learned many times in the IT and networking fields, what often catches on has as much to do with timing as it does with technology.