Sunday, June 23, 2024

Mobile Voice over IP is Taking Shape

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IT managers who are putting mobile voice over IP on their enterprise wish

lists this holiday season might want to be more specific. The term

”mobile VoIP” has taken on a multitude of meanings with very different

technology requirements.

”In its most straightforward, mobile VoIP is voice over IP over cellular

and Wi-Fi networks, but that’s still three to four years away. When

people talk about mobile VoIP today, they’re referring to voice over

wireless LANs,” says Svetlana Issaeva, manager of Communications, Media

and Technology Research at Pyramid Research in London.

There are currently three variations of mobile voice over IP being

researched or already in production in consumer and enterprise markets:

  • Mobile voice over IP over wireless LANs;
  • Mobile voice over IP over cellular networks, and
  • Mobile voice over IP over cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

    ”Mobile voice over IP to me today is going to our New York office and

    logging into my IP phone there and it appears as if I’m in my Minneapolis

    office. This is base-level mobility,” says Chris Ferski, director of

    Information Technology at Goldsmith Agio Helms, an investment banking

    firm in Minneapolis.

    ”True seamless mobility will let me go anywhere and do what I need to do

    and not have to worry about phone numbers and contact information — it

    will all be invisible and transferable,” he says.

    Ferski himself says he has different levels of mobile voice over IP that

    he’s working through. The first is simply being able to have the

    company’s 110 employees easily move between the five corporate offices in

    Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and New York without having to

    deal with moves, adds and changes. He gets this functionality from his

    Nortel Networks VoIP network.

    He also uses Nortel’s softphone tools to let his users access the VoIP

    network from the road using their laptops and headsets.

    Next year, he plans to add to this mobility by installing wireless

    LAN-enabled mobile handsets for use in the company’s public spaces.

    Ferski says high-end bankers could then log into those handsets, which

    would be wirelessly connected to access points, and carry them into the

    boardrooms and other meeting areas and not miss important calls about

    deals that otherwise might go to their desk phones.

    Cell Power

    While Ferski is working within the confines of the wireless LAN network

    to gain voice over IP functionality, TalkPlus, Inc. is encouraging users

    to make more of their cell phones for mobile VoIP capabilities.

    ”Mobile VoIP to me is having a device that lets you drive down the

    highway at 60 miles an hour and get all the features that you’d have on a

    voice over IP connection,” says Jeff Black, CEO of TalkPlus in Menlo

    Park, Calif.

    The features TalkPlus enable include multiple numbers or identities to

    one phone, voice mail for each of those identities, group conference

    calling, and low-call rates. ”You can have one number or 10 numbers and

    each of them have individual controls,” he says.

    ”You’re in the cellular world all the time. You want to extract the

    cost-savings of the voice over IP in the broadband world into cellular

    service,” he says. Black claims his service offers rates as low as two

    cents a minute for calls in the U.S., and three and a half cents a minute

    overseas to cities like London.

    He adds that the company is able to achieve this by running voice on the

    voice channel and data and other information over the signaling channel

    on carrier networks. TalkPlus co-locates its equipment in neutral

    facilities, like Equinix, so it can plug directly into carrier switches.

    TalkPlus is currently a beta-version hosted service, where consumers can

    go to the company’s Web site,, create an account with

    multiple identities and have the application sent to their phone via an

    SMS message. Black says more features, such as links to LDAP directories

    and an enterprise version, will be added early next year.

    Future speak

    Though these innovations are impressive, Randy Giusto, group vice

    president of Mobility, Computing and Consumer Markets for International

    Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass., says the real holy grail for mobile VoIP

    is the convergence of voice over Wi-Fi and cellular networks. He says

    that’s where companies will truly see a cost-savings.

    ”There are a growing number of employees making cell phone calls on

    campus,” Giusto says. If they could access a wireless IP network from

    their handsets, the savings could be in the range of 25 percent to 28


    ”The grand vision is that you’re on a call and in the building you’re on

    the Wi-Fi network, and then you walk out to the parking lot and you

    automatically switch over to the cellular network. But there isn’t a

    clear software-based handoff that’s transparent to the user yet,” he


    But there has been a ”chicken and egg” mentality about creating new

    handsets, services and infrastructure. ”IT organizations are saying if I

    can save that much for voice calls, I’d be willing to do it. But the

    handset companies are waiting for orders and interest,” Giusto says.

    This is a problem that Sanjay Jhawar, vice president of Marketing and

    Development at BridgePort Networks, Inc., is trying to solve. Jhawar is

    chairman of the steering committee for MobileIgnite, an organization

    formed in January to create open solutions for the merging of mobile

    voice over IP on Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

    ”Our goal is for users to be able to have a single phone that would be a

    mobile phone when you were in the wide area network outside the home and

    office environment and also a voice over IP phone with Internet calling

    when you’re near a Wi-Fi network. And you’d have the same number across

    both networks,” he says.

    For this to happen, Jhawar says there has to be a convergence at the

    device and service layers. ”There are elements that have to be looked at

    in the mobile network, fixed networks, media gateways, and

    softswitches,” he says.

    Though it seems too complex for there to be progress, more than 20

    companies, including VeriSign, Inc., Net2Phone, Inc., Kyocera Wireless

    Corp., and Boingo Wireless, Inc., have joined the organization.

    Jhawar says their charter is threefold: to create interoperability

    between handsets with Wi-Fi and cellular; to create IP Centrex to mobile

    network interoperability; and to create interoperability between SIP and

    mobile environments.

    For Ferski, this sounds like a dream come true.

    ”I’m looking forward to devices coming out to support this. The more

    options we have to connect seamlessly and to seamlessly hop onto various

    networks, the better,” he says.

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