The Converged Corporate Wireless Phone Unveiled

Motorola, Avaya, and Proxim took the wrap off their initial joint offering of enterprise VoIP products that support Wi-Fi & GSM today, plus will extend the offer to others to play in this sandbox via a new open industry forum.

A year and a half after first announcing a planned collaboration, Motorola , Avaya , and Proxim today unveiled the platform they'll offer to enterprise customers to solve mobile voice issues both inside and outside the office.

The Converged Mobility Solution, as the companies call it, consists of WLAN infrastructure equipment from Avaya and Proxim coupled with new phones from Motorola that support both GSM cellular connections and VoIP connections when in range of the corporate Wi-Fi equipment. The switch-over of networks is meant to be seamless.

At the same time, the companies announced the formation of the Seamless Converged Communication Across Networks (SCCAN) Forum, a industry forum under the auspices of the IEEE Industry Standards and Technology Organization (IEEE-ISTO) that will be recruiting members to join its happy band.

During a conference call with analysts and journalists, Chris White, director of Business Development at Motorola, described the system using the scenario of an employee on the new Motorola converged phone on a train using it to make a virtual private network (VPN) connection to the office to get a number, making the call, and then walking into work while still on the phone and having the call switch from GSM to the WLAN while still talking.

The phone, the Motorola CN620 Dual-Network Mobile Office Device (MOD), has the size and shape of a cellular phone but Motorola has installed a user interface including a 9-way navigation disc controller and other buttons for easy access to enterprise phone functions such as hold, mute, and speakerphone. The screen on the CN620 will use color coding to indicate when connected to the metered GSM connection ("forest green," says White) or the unlimited WLAN ("plum"). There's full WAP and HTML-based access for Web browsing, and the phones can synchronize with data stored on PCs. The phone runs on the Windows CE 4.2 "componentized" operating system for embedded devices and a TNETW1230 802.11a/g chip from Texas Instruments.

"We went to enterprise customers around the world and asked what they wanted in a wireless phone," says White. "[They said they wanted] the features and function of their PBX to go with them where they are, inside or outside the enterprise."

On the infrastructure side, Motorola will also supply the Wireless Service Manager (WSM) which provides the hand over from GSM to 802.11 and back again as users roam. It will also house the push-to-talk engine inside the enterprise. "One customer said they wanted push-to-talk from the United States to an office in Bangalore," says White, saying with the right architecture, the WSM can handle such communication. It won't be available until the fourth quarter of this year.

Avaya and Proxim worked together to make the infrastructure hardware, the $8995 Avaya W310 WLAN Gateway and $495 Avaya W110 WLAN Access Points.

Initially, the phones and the infrastructure equipment will be configured to use 5GHz 802.11a only. Proxim says the reason for this is summed up in one word: capacity. The larger number of channels and fewer opportunities for frequency interference were cited as factors. The W110 AP, however, can support dual-band 802.11a/g. That's because, despite the emphasis on voice communications, White says "this solution supports both voice and data -- it's meant for both to cohabitate, whether it's for a PC that's roaming, or another portable."

While the system can handle data, companies with an existing WLAN data network can also install this as an overlay to handle voice traffic. Until more vendors join the SCCAN group, that's how offices with, for example, a Cisco deployment for data use will have to use it.

The solution will be sold to enterprises through Avaya's reseller channels for network and PBX equipment.

Initial sales of the equipment will be tied to a single GSM cellular service provider, but Motorola would not comment on who that will be yet. They expect to eventually see several providers offering GSM service on the MOD phone.

This announcement from the three companies comes the same week that T-Mobile and HP announced a converged wireless solution, putting Wi-Fi and GSM support into a single Pocket PC unit. White points out that the iPAQ they're offering clearly separates GSM for voice and WLAN for data. "It doesn't do VoIP, except maybe with a softphone," he says.

In a separate announcement this morning, Motorola Labs said that it had found in testing that using Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) it could get 300 Megabits per second (Mbps) downlink speeds on a mobile network. The company will be sharing this data with standards bodies like the IEEE, ITU, ETSI and others. As a WiMax Forum member, Motorola will likely put this forth for consideration in the 802.16 standard. The company wouldn't comment on the OFDM patents and the potential litigation it might face from other companies, most notably Canada's Wi-LAN.

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