In order for voice-over-wireless LANs to take off among businesses, many of the large industry vendors need to collaborate. Cisco Systems took steps toward that vision by partnering with Intel, Nokia, Research In Motion, and other technology companies to drive adoption of what the vendor calls voice-ready wireless networks.
ITalk, talk, talk ...
Cisco already sells a foundation for voice communications over WLANs called its Unified Wireless Network, which includes features such as quality-of-service measurement, roaming, and access points with enhanced radios, the company says.
To test other vendors' products for interoperability, Cisco created a Compatible Extensions program. A program participant, such as a maker of a wireless LAN client adapter or a client device, must first develop features that support Cisco, and then submit the product to an independent lab for testing. Products that pass the tests earn a Cisco-compatible logo and can be deployed on top of Cisco's WLAN infrastructure.
Still unclear is how much demand there is for phones that operate off a company's wireless LAN, because most businesses have extensive internal phone networks in place and phones on just about every worker's desk. The key to selling the technology will be evidence that it improves productivity or efficiency.
Where's The Equipment?
What the partnership lacks is any products to talk about. Cisco says it's leaving that to its program partners to reveal. RIM, for example, already sells a BlackBerry device that works with WLANs instead of cellular networks. It makes sense that such a product will interoperate with Cisco gear, so IT administrators can more easily manage wireless voice communications.
Voice over wireless means companies can extend their voice-over-IP networks and converge them with WLANs. It has the potential to change the way people stay connected at work, letting employees take their phone extensions wherever they go.