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9/29/2005
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Review: VoIP Wireless Phones

Want the cost savings of Voice over IP but don't want to be chained to your desk? These six VoIP Wi-Fi phones can help your VoIP connectivity roam right along with you.

VoIP, or voice over IP, has gotten a lot of buzz recently, and rightly so. Bypassing POTS (plain old telephone service) and its pricey rates, consumer VoIP leaders Skype and Vonage have snagged a relatively small but significant share of the market, one that continues to grow as new products and services come to market.

Prompted by tempting savings on long-distance rates, home and small-office users have made the jump to VoIP via their ISP's broadband cable or DSL lines. Some larger corporate sites have taken advantage of the rate savings as well, and the features of VoIP phones make them flexible in an office environment that handles a lot of calls.

With VoIP still gathering steam, a new flavor of VoIP may accelerate the move to Internet-based telephone service. VoIP over wireless network, or VoWLAN, could bring more compelling reasons for users to drop their current telephony service and switch to a true roaming VoIP solution. VoWLAN is simply a VoIP phone that can connect to the Internet via a corporate wireless network, a home or small office wireless network, or a public or private wireless hotspot.

For a corporate or small office environment, where wireless access to the network is secure and constant, VoWLAN is an ideal solution for employees who aren't tied to a desk, but need to stay in touch -- such as IT or sales personnel.

For roaming beyond the immediate area of your office or home, the widespread deployment of the 802.11b and g wireless standards (also known as Wi-Fi) means that VoWLAN users have plenty of freely available coverage in densely populated areas. Even in urban areas coverage can be spotty, though, so they're not a replacement for a cell phone yet. Nevertheless, carrying a VoWLAN phone can make phone calls cheap in many places, from the local café to a client's office.

VoIP Wi-Fi Phones
Because the market is relatively new, there are limited VoWLAN telephones available. The current crop of VoIP Wi-Fi telephones share very similar feature sets, such as a basic phonebook, echo cancellation, and jitter buffer to ward off call breakup from network traffic. Look for other features like call forwarding, vibration alert, and conference calling if your situation requires more advanced call management.

Here is a selection of current products that can connect your VoIP calls without wires. All the phones in our roundup support 802.11b/g Wi-Fi standards and use the SIP call-control protocol.


Courtesy of Cisco Systems, Inc. Unauthorized use not permitted.
Cisco IP Phone 7920
Price: $574.60
Talk time: 3.5 hours
Standby time: 21 hours
Over-the-air firmware upgrades and tight integration with Cisco networking equipment make the 7920 a good choice for corporate networks already running Cisco software and hardware.

Hitachi Cable Wireless IPC-5000
Price: $319
Talk time: 3 hours
Standby time: 55 hours
A generous 200-entry address book and solid standby time make the IPC 5000 a candidate for serious roamers.


Courtesy of UTStarcom Inc.
UTStarcom F1000
Price: $169.95
Talk time: 4 hours
Standby time: 80 - 100 hours
Aimed at the residential market, the F1000's long talk and standby times, coupled with a solid price point, make it a cost-effective way for consumers to communicate.


Courtesy of Viper Networks Inc.
Viper Networks Wi-Fi 3100 vPhone
Price: $179
Talk time: 4 hours
Standby time: 80 - 100 hours
Viper offers this phone as part of its VoIP network package. If you don't yet have a VoIP account, you might want to consider buying service and hardware from the same vendor, simplifying any tech issues.


Courtesy of Zultys Technologies.
Zultys Technologies WIP 2
Price: TBA, will be available November 2005
Talk time: 4 hours
Standby time: 12 hours
Downloadable ringtones and advanced encryption control differentiate this model, but the 12-hour standby time means more frequent recharges.

Courtesy of ZyXEL Communications Corp.

ZyXEL Prestige P-2000W
Price: $199
Talk time: 4 hours
Standby time: 24 hours
Direct IP-to-IP calling and built-in Web configuration make this a good choice for corporate users seeking to simplify their calling.

More Options For Skype Customers
Not ready to shell out for a phone? Skype customers have other options to try.

iSkoot
Price: Free for current trial period, $9.95 for a year of service
With a free beta test still ongoing, users who aren't sure if they want to take the VoIP plunge can check out this cool software package that functions as a call bridge service, letting you use VoIP with your current cell phone, without the need for a nearby PC. ISkoot simply forwards incoming IP calls to your mobile. Very cool, but so far it only works with Skype.

Skype Zones
Price: $7.95 per month
This Skype-Boingo partnership lets Skype users make unlimited voice calls from any of Boingo's 18,000 hotspots. Of course, you'll need a Windows 2000 or XP laptop in addition to a headset or USB phone, but if you travel with this equipment anyway, Skype Zones is worth looking into.

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