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Network World has a good two part synopsis of what is going on in the converged cellular/WLAN space: The piece concludes that the main reasons that enterprises would want such a solution is to save costs on calls made both within the enterprise and to locations outside of campus. Such converged networks also supply a single contact point for executives, which realistically isn’t a huge deal because many people already pass out a single number and just use call forwarding.
A BridgePort executive claims that big enterprises are telling telcos they won’t pay for calls made between employees on campus. I’m a little unclear on the point here, but I think that he’s saying that enterprises don’t want to pay the wireline telcos for calls between employees on campus and that presents an opportunity for cell carriers who, by offering a converged device, can be in control of calls that are made over Wi-Fi networks on campus. That means the cell carrier gets the business of carrying calls on campus but doesn’t have to extend or add capacity to its mobile network because the calls will be carried over Wi-Fi.
That’s a logical thought, but I’m a bit skeptical about whether enterprises are pushing telcos for free calling on campus. They may be pushing, but until the threat of something like voice over Wi-Fi becomes a reality, I can’t see why the telco would want to give that service away.
There is plenty of activity in the converged cellular/Wi-Fi space and while I often argue that there’s not much in it for the cellular operators, I suspect that the service is inevitable. The cell operators may resist as long as they can but at some point they may have to capitulate and try to get whatever benefit they can from the offering. One such benefit would be to win enterprise business such as the scenario described above. But they’ll have to weigh that benefit with the possibility of having to hand calls over to hotspots that they don’t own.
Strix Systems deployed a Wi-Fi network to support voice and data at the Voice on the Net (VON) show: Strix says that one IT manager deployed 25 nodes in a day. All but two were fully wireless so the network operated on a mesh architecture. Strix reports that as many as 450 users were on the network at one time, with 25 percent of them using voice devices. The network separated voice and data traffic, giving priority to voice traffic.
It would be nice to get more of a third party evaluation of the network, only because Strix and Pulver have a vested interest in the success of this network. Still, it sounds like it was a fairly simple network to deploy and it supported a high volume of voice and data users.
Samsung said it will introduce a Wi-Fi-enabled cell phone later this month in Korea: The phone will run Microsoft’s Pocket PC software. While this article discusses voice over Wi-Fi, it’s not clear that the phone will have any special support for voice over IP.
This article notes that if voice over Wi-Fi does become more widespread, the lower cost to end users may put additional pressure on the cellular operators to decrease their prices for voice services. That’s true but voice over Wi-Fi will have to become very widely used in the home and offices and potentially elsewhere before Wi-Fi will steal significant minutes from the cellular networks. If Wi-Fi networks do end up putting pressure on the cellular operators, it won’t come at a good time. Since the introduction of 3G services, operators, especially in Europe, are already really feeling price pressure on voice services, which continue to yield the vast majority of revenues. Operators that have to compete against Hutchison, which bought a number of 3G licenses throughout Europe, are particularly feeling the pain. Hutchison has come into many markets, especially the UK, with really low voice tariffs as a way to try to win new customers.
One Vonage customer says that Clearwire is blocking the voice over IP service: This is clearly a defensive move by Clearwire but surely won’t do much as far as endearing itself to customers. Clearwire recently said that Bell Canada would supply voice services to Clearwire broadband wireless customers. Apparently Clearwire wants to ensure that its customers that want voice services buy the service from Clearwire and no one else. While it’s understandable, it won’t help Clearwire to promote its image as a champion of competitive providers.
The FCC recently ruled that Madison River Communications, a telephone and DSL provider, had to stop blocking Vonage and pay a fine for doing so previously. But Mobile Pipeline reports that it’s not clear if the FCC could make a similar ruling against Clearwire because Clearwire isn’t a local telephone company.
Mike Masnick takes a swipe at all the hype surrounding various concepts of voice over wireless: While I agree with some of what he says here, he misses one point about the competition. While I agree that at least the initial voice services to be deployed over WiMax aren’t competitive with 3G or other cellular networks, such services aren’t meant to compete with the mobile offerings. The US Wireless voice over WiMax service is meant to compete against the incumbent fixed line operators. Instead of using the local Bell, a business could instead hire US Wireless for all their voice and data needs.
But Masnick is right on about technologies like Flarion and IPWireless. Those companies set out to create IP-based mobile data networks. They’ve added the voice over IP services to make their technologies competitive with the standard cellular technologies. For these technologies to succeed in a significant way, the major cellular operators will have to deploy them using their existing cellular spectrum. In that case, as Masnick says, wireless voice over IP isn’t a threat to the cellular players because the cellular players are the most likely ones to deploy it.
David Haskin writes about the cell operators and the coming VoWLAN flood: A dual-mode cell/Wi-Fi handset that fully integrates into cell networks, enterprises, homes, and hotspots could have a huge effect on the current cellular market. But the operators are apparently not much concerned or interested, distracted at the moment with mergers (which are partly about getting more spectrum consolidated for 3G deployment). Haskin expects that mobile WiMax plus VoIP could be a killer combination.
Welcome to WNN’s latest blog on VoWLAN: The term is unwieldy, we know. Expand it out and it’s voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) over wireless local area network (WLAN), abbreviated down to VoWLAN. But it’s an area that many companies, universities, and private homes are rushing to get into. Companies that have spent thousands to millions building out robust wireless networks have discovered that overlaying voice isn’t trivial: voice needs priority over other data. Some networks must be re-engineered.
Universities have flexibility, and were often early adopters of WLAN technology. Many, like Dartmouth College, are in their second or third iterations of WLAN rollout and voice is a key part of that. Dartmouth is building an 802.11a (5 gigahertz band) network specifically to ensure the bandwidth and consistency necessary for high-quality conversations.
Meanwhile, home users aren’t left out. A small array of Wi-Fi phones have hit the market, but using those phones reliably on any network, dealing with securing them to well-protected home networks, and roaming outside of the home at hotspots are all issues that remain to be settled.
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