Telus, Siemens offer warnings about dual-mode wireless

Dual-mode wireless handsets, which allow mobile users to send voice and data over both Wi-Fi and cellular networks, are only a small part of fixed-mobile convergence, according to a Telus executive.

“Be careful in how you look at dual mode today,” said Zeeshan Najmuddin, director of converged networks for Telus Business Solutions. “Although the technology is there, there’s a lot of proprietary things behind this technology to make it work, and there’s a lot of changes you’re going to have to do within your PBX infrastructure to make this work.”

Najmuddin delivered his warning to an audience of about 150 at the Wireless and Mobile Expo and Conference, held this week at Toronto’s National Trade Centre.

Fixed-mobile convergence and dual-mode handsets were discussed in several sessions at the event. Mark VanderHeyden, vice-president of carrier networks at Siemens Canada Ltd., said his company’s vision of the future is one in which workers can have a “unified user experience” regardless of the underlying telecommunications technology. For example, he said, office workers should be able to get features of their private branch exchanges – such as the ability to dial by extension, transfer calls, place callers on hold – on wireless phones. But these capabilities require extensive integration, meaning companies need to have technologies that can handle signaling and call handoff between time division multiplexing (TDM) wireline, and Internet Protocol-based wireless networks, Najmuddin warned.

Although his company owns wireless carrier Telus Mobility, Najmuddin said it’s no skin off his nose if corporate users with dual-mode phones make fewer calls on the cellular network and more calls over an internal Wi-Fi network – even though one in three cellular calls originate from users inside a building.

“We know that 30 per cent of our existing cell tower that’s supporting those customers today, could be put over a different network,” Najmuiddin said.

“For us, that’s a good thing – not a bad thing because we would lose that revenue – because we save on spectrum, which we could use for different applications.”

Although most companies use mobile technologies to connect telecommuters and branch offices, wireless networks can also be used to support more sophisticated applications, such as paging health care workers and tracking goods in warehouses or retail stores.

Supply chain management is becoming more dependent on radiofrequency identification (RFID), Najmuddin said, adding RFID tags can carry more information than bar codes. For example, electronic goods could be packaged with RFID tags that contain not only stock numbers and product names, but information on the electronic components inside the devices.

Wireless technologies can be used in local-area networks using the 802.11 series of standards, especially now that PC manufacturers are shipping more notebooks than desktops, he said.

For wide-area networks, WiMax and other fixed wireless technologies are useful at remote sites that require broadband access for voice and data communications, but where it’s not economical to build wired backbones, he said.

“If I’m in a rural region, if I’m an oil and gas customer in northern Alberta, and I have 20 people coming in over the next three to four months, and they’re only there for two to three months, I’m not going to trench fibre.”

Wireless and Mobile Expo and Conference wrapped up Thursday.

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