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Wayport will offer Vocera’s VoIP badge systems to hotels, other service-partner venues: This is a nice win for Vocera, which has had rave reviews of their technology since its introduction. The Vocera badge uses Wi-Fi for VoIP but is hands-free. Tap the badge, speak a name or request, and voice-recognition technology tied into Vocera’s hardware and a local PBX can find people or complete calls.
Wayport has more than a thousand venues appropriate for Vocera technology, and this gives Wayport one more arrow in their quiver on the private network side. Wayport does offer private networking services, but more typically provides a range of services on the private side along with public Internet access, provisioning, account management, integration, and billing.
A few companies are offering software that lets cell phones make voice over IP calls: Some of them do voice over IP over the data channel of the cellular network. This would be a nightmare for the cell phone operators, except that the operators are charging out the nose for the data connections. It really doesn’t make sense to use these services over the cellular channel. What this article neglects to point out is that customers of Mint pay a $7 monthly fee plus two cent per minute calls PLUS the monthly subscription for the data service. In the U.S., those subscriptions are in the $80 range, or more, for unlimited use. If you make a ton of international calls and you’re looking for a great price, you’d just use voice over IP on a computer or use some of the discount international calling companies.
These services could make sense over Wi-Fi, however. In a public hotspot, customers would have to add the cost of access to the hotspot, assuming they could authenticate and pay for access using their mobile device.
NTT DoCoMo said it will sell a combined Wi-Fi/3G phone from Motorola: It doesn’t sound like this device specifically supports voice over Wi-Fi or that connections could be handed off between the two different networks.
Nortel and BB Mobile said that they’ve demonstrated roaming between 3G and Wi-Fi in Japan. Nortel’s system could allow the handoff of voice calls between the networks.
Nokia talked about delivering a combined Wi-Fi and cellular handset by the end of this year at its recent journalists event: Nokia has at least one handset that includes Wi-Fi but it doesn’t specifically support voice, although users can try to use a third party softphone. But the phones out at the end of this year will come with support for voice over Wi-Fi, but they won’t necessarily allow handoffs from the WLAN to the cellular networks.
Nokia thinks that the mobile operators will be OK with mobile workers using voice over Wi-Fi in the enterprise because it means that even more people in the enterprise will have cell phones that they’ll use outside of the corporate campus. It’s an interesting reasoning but we’ll have to see if the operators see it that way.
Techedge says it will ship voice over Wi-Fi phones in the third quarter: The phones will work on 802.11b networks. I’m a bit surprised at the number of small companies (or at least companies I’ve never heard of) introducing voice over Wi-Fi phones. It’s such an unproved market, but these guys must be looking to get a jump on the potential for it to become a real market. I’ll be interested to see if any of the cellular phone vendors come out with a Wi-Fi-only handset. The Wi-Fi-only devices are certainly less useful than a combined cellular/Wi-Fi phone, but these vendors have the recognizable brands that could attract some users, if this becomes a mass market.
Atheros has made a number of moves toward supporting voice over IP over Wi-Fi: Atheros chips are being used by Japanese vendor ICOM in access points that are designed specifically for voice applications. Atheros has also introduced a product line and an open source project aimed at making it simple to use a handheld device, like a phone, to do voice over Wi-Fi. We may see an interesting battle in the near future among chip vendors hoping to score a share of the mobile voice over IP market. The mobile phone makers usually stick to a small group of chip makers so I’d be interested to watch chip developers like Atheros try to get a foot in that door, as the handset makers look to develop combined cellular/Wi-Fi voice devices.
The mesh networking company adds voice over WLAN: Telesym shuttered its doors a few weeks ago with plans to spin out as much technology as possible to repay investors. This is the first public deal in which software will be licensed to a third party. Sensoria says they alerady offer voice, video, and data, but that the SymPhone software extends their peer-to-peer voice support.
BellSouth said it is trialing a converged WLAN/cellular enterprise offering: Employees of a company will use a converged Wi-Fi/cellular handset that carries voice over IP over WLAN calls on the corporate campus and uses Cingular’s cellular network off campus. This is an ideal offering from a company like BellSouth. I’m assuming that the company’s broadband is supplied by BellSouth, so while BellSouth may be offloading calls from its cellular network (Cingular), it is offloading those calls onto its own wireline network. It’s cheaper for BellSouth to carry those calls on the WLAN then the cellular network, so depending on what it might charge for such a service it can be a good revenue generator.
While this is a trial with just one company, I’d expect other operators that own wireless and wireline networks to soon follow suit in exploring these offerings, if they haven’t already.
Alcatel and Nokia both said they’d support the Unlicensed Mobile Access initiative: The companies backing UMA are developing a standard way to integrate Wi-Fi and cellular networks to allow seamless voice roaming. The UMA group doesn’t technically exist any more because it is now an official 3GPP initiative.
A handful of combined Wi-Fi/cellular handsets that enable voice calls on both networks are becoming available: This article looks at some of their shortcomings, including potential high cost and the fact that so far they all work on GSM and not CDMA. In addition to these, of course the biggest shortcoming is the lack of a cellular operator that is interested in supporting one of these handsets. My theory is that a black sheep operator, maybe a small one or an MVNO, will start making such an offering. If it becomes successful and something that it seems users want, the big names will follow.
Matthew Gast crunches and improves Cisco’s simultaneous VoIP over WLAN call estimates for 802.11b: Gast, author of the recently released 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition, uses Cisco’s calculations for overhead and throughput to figure out how many VoWLAN calls could be made at the same time using 802.11b, which is still considered a standard for Wi-Fi VoIP on the receiver end.
The results aren’t pretty: if all 802.11b devices are running at 11 Mbps, you can achieve from 11 to 15 calls depending on voice encoding factors. This is why a lot of institutions are considering or deploying 802.11a for VoIP: they’ll be able to handle dozens of calls on a single AP and deploy APs densely in the same area without overlap.
NTT DoCoMo said it will launch a combined Wi-Fi/cellular voice service for consumers next year: Using combined Wi-Fi and cellular handsets, customers will be able to use voice over Wi-Fi in their homes and get charged the same rates as if they were using their landline phone. For a company like NTT, which I believe is also the incumbent landline operator, this kind of service makes loads of sense. It means that while NTT may be displacing traffic from its landline telephone service, it is still carrying that traffic and charging the same price for it while delivering it more efficiently over IT. Unfortunately this article has no more details on which vendors or standards NTT may choose to use to offer the service.