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Two firms tip VoWLAN solutions

Posted: 01 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:WLAN? voice-over-WLAN? Wi-Fi? Siemens? Divitas?

After two years of hyping fixed/mobile convergence's ability to bring together cellphones and in-building WLAN-based phones, vendors are finally deploying products based on dedicated central appliances and client software for handsets. Siemens AG's Mobile Enterprise group is launching the HiPath MobileConnect product for unified voice networks, while newcomer Divitas Networks Inc. is calling its infrastructure play a "mobile-mobile convergence" tool.

VoWLAN quality
The launches come as several WLAN switch and controller companies are updating their products to handle voice. Aruba Wireless Networks Inc., for example, is offering a combined update of its OS and Mobility Management software in order to prioritize packet voice and ensure consistent quality of voice-over-WLAN connections.

"It's all tied to the adoption of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)," said Aruba product manager Jon Green. "The WLAN controller is looking more like a soft switch." That conclusion was also reached by Siemens AG's Mobile Enterprise group, which extended its HiPath SIP switching portfolio to cover fixed/mobile convergence (FMC). Consequently, voice calls in the cellular infrastructure can be handed off directly to an in-building WLAN topology.

Bigger agenda
While companies like SpectraLink (now part of Polycom) and Proxim have developed standalone WLAN-based voice networks, Siemens thought that true FMC must have a bigger agenda. "The goal of developing HiPath MobileConnect was single-number, single-mailbox service, and that was not possible before SIP became widespread," said Siemens' VP of product planning Luc Roy.

Siemens is launching a dedicated 1U appliance called MobileConnect Appliance. Coincidently, that appliance shares the same abbreviation as the small system from competitor Divitas. Siemens' intent is to encourage the embedding of number translation and switching functions from the standalone appliance to a card that can be embedded in an Internet Protocol (IP) PBX, Roy said.

Seamless call handoffs
Embedded or not, the point is to make the translator-switch appliance the control point for calls to and from the dual-mode handset. This control point can work with the enterprise PBX and the public-network signaling gateway to ensure seamless call handoffs.

Siemens' HiPath MobileConnect promises true FMC

In Siemens' case, this appliance is offered in three versions: MobileConnect 50, 250 and 1500. The numbers correspond to a similar number of maximum end users. For handling such a large number of calls, the aggregate throughput of the Siemens system scales from 400Mbps in the MC 50 to 6Gbps in the MC 1500.

For client handset support, Siemens has existing agreements with Fujitsu-Siemens' PocketLoox T80 and the Nokia E60 handset, based on Windows Mobile and Symbian, respectively. While Roy promised that several more handset agreements will be completed soon, this is one area where Siemens will find an infrastructure newcomer nipping at its heels. Divitas, which announced its system last week, is coming to market with three handset ports, with four more in an advanced state of development.

Mobile-to-mobile convergence
With operations in the U.S. and India, Divitas calls its system mobile-to-mobile convergence, although it is a classic instantiation of FMC using SIP. Divitas will try to edge out existing offerings from Cisco Systems Inc. and Avaya Inc., as well as Siemens' new MobileConnect. Divitas chief executive Vivek Khuller said that his engineering team, hand-picked from several telecom equipment companies, wanted to broaden the "fixed/mobile convergence" definition by using a universal controller to link voice-over-Wi-Fi networks with cellular networks.

The company is using SIP and open-source software to link private Wi-Fi networks and public hotspots with cellular networks. The Mobile Convergence Appliance (MCA) hardware has been designed to work with legacy PBX, IP PBX and time-division-multiplexed networks (without a PBX).

'Any-to-any' approach
Divitas has identified several handheld platforms operating under Windows Mobile, including Symbian and Linux, which will serve as initial client platforms for the controller. Khuller said that broad-based versions of FMC control-plane products must adopt an "any to any" approach, supporting as many dual-mode handsets as possible to avoid appealing to too small a niche.

The central MCA controller must merge with third-party applications in such areas as instant messaging, e-mail and presence applications. Khuller predicted the drive to sign up relationships may characterize FMC infrastructure activity for the next few months.

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