Implementing Voice on Wireless LANs
By Michael F. Finneran, dBrn Associates, Inc.
Published March 2006, Posted March 2006
The first article I wrote on the subject of carrying voice over wireless LANs was published in the January 2004 issue of Business Communications Review; surprisingly little has happened since then. While Voice over Wireless LAN (VoWLAN) or Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-FI) has been a hot topic among the analyst set, its acceptance among enterprise users has been minimal. Of the roughly 40 million Wi-Fi stations in use, less than a half million are voice devices. The vast majority of those are confined to a few vertical markets like health care and retailing. Given the flood of articles on the topic, that lack of success cannot be attributed to poor market awareness.
Given the limitations of the existing WLAN infrastructure in most enterprises and the capabilities of our current crop of VoWLAN handsets, deferring the implementation was probably a wise choice. However, 2006 should be a transition year for VoWLAN. Developments in WLAN switches should allow us to address the deficiencies in the WLAN infrastructure. Further, a new generation of WLAN handsets should finally provide the capabilities an enterprise IT department needs to deliver WLAN-based voice services that meet the users' expectations for quality, reliability, and availability.
In the meantime, many IT departments still struggle to assimilate WLAN technologies. Most of the initial networks had significant start-up problems and required considerable tweaking before they could be considered stable. Voice, by definition, is a mission critical application, and it requires virtually all of the newest features and standards in wireless LANs. So before setting out on that road, IT departments should be very sure they know what lies ahead.
About the author:
Michael F. Finneran is an independent telecommunications consulting specializing in wireless networks and technologies. Besides his research and consulting activities, he writes a regular column called Network Intelligence for Business Communications Review and teaches their seminars on Wireless Technologies and Wireless LANs.
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