Avaya Inc. plans to offer a wireless handset that works on both cellular and wireless local-area networks, but analysts say users will be reluctant to rely on one vendor for seamless roaming, and carriers will need to offer it with Wi-Fi
hot spot services.
Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Avaya will resell Motorola Inc.’s CN620 phone with its W310 WLAN gateway and W110 WLAN access points in Canada.
Both the W310 and W110 are available now to organizations that want voice over IP over WLANs (VoWLANs) using the IEEE 802.11 standards.
The CN620 is expected to ship later this year and is about to undergo beta testing. It works on both 802.11 local-area networks and on carriers’ networks that use the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) standard. Users outside of the range of 802.11 access points would make calls on a carrier’s GSM network, while users within the range of the access points could use the phone as if it were an internal extension.
The Motorola handset is designed to roam automatically from the cellular network to the 802.11 network, so that users walking into a building won’t have to hang up and then switch over to wireless LAN mode, said Mack Leathurby, Avaya’s marketing director for technical alliances.
Instead, the phone will detect Wi-Fi access points, call them while the user is talking on the cellular network, and then switch over to the Wi-Fi network, Leathurby said.
This could reduce companies’ telecommunications costs by 20 to 40 per cent, and companies could get a return on investment within a year, said Chris White, director of business development for seamless mobility at Schaumberg, Ill.-based Motorola.
Companies would save money by not having to give mobile users both a cell phone and a desktop phone, and calls made over the 802.11 networks would not be billed by the carriers.
Rogers Wireless offers GSM service in Canada, but executives were not available to comment in detail at press time. In an e-mailed response, a Rogers spokesperson said the carrier “”is always interested in testing innovative devices, so it’s certainly a possibility.””
The CN620 is “”a good start”” for Wi-Fi to cellular roaming, but the device would be more appealing if carriers let customers use it on both their GSM networks and in Wi-Fi public hot spots, said Ronald Gruia, enterprise communications program leader with the Toronto office of Frost & Sullivan, a San Antonio, Tex.-based research firm.
“”It has good potential to make employees more productive when they’re on the road,”” Gruia said. “”The missing glue to make it more appealing is for the service provider to go in and say, ‘Hey – let’s offer a bundled plan to offer X amount of minutes on our 3G 2.5 G network and Y minutes, at a cheaper rate, on a Wi-Fi hot spot.'””
Another Frost & Sullivan analyst, Wai-Sing Lee, said potential customers may shy away from Avaya’s package because it requires Avaya access points.
“”I think that there is a market for handsets that will be able to roam between cellular and WLAN networks but I don’t believe that customers would want to necessarily be locked in to one equipment provider or one particular standard,”” Lee said in an e-mail.
Leathurby said the W310 gateway will work with about 75 per cent of access points from Avaya and Proxim Corp., a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based equipment manufacturer which, along with Motorola, participated in developing the seamless roaming offering.
Leathurby added Avaya has an interoperability program, which will enable VoWLAN phone users to roam among access points manufactured by other vendors, including Trapeze, Aruba and Meru, but only the Avaya products will allow roaming to GSM networks.
The entire product set will be sold by Avaya and its channel partners. The W110 access points are Proxim radios to which Avaya has added firmware, Leathurby said. The W310 gateway was developed by engineers from both Avaya and Proxim, while development staff from all three vendors worked on the Motorola CN620.
Pricing for the CN620 has not been announced. Although the CN620 works on GSM networks, it is not being marketed as a cell phone because it has desktop phone features and a large screen with the Windows CE operating system, White said.
He added it’s a result of surveys in which Motorola asked business users what features they wanted in their office phones.
“”What they said was, ‘what I really want is a phone that allows me mobility, I can leave my desk and take all of the features and functionality of the phone that’s on my desk with me, and by the way, I’d like it to work outside the building and I’d like to be able to be reached on one phone number, and not have people have to hunt around on different phone numbers to get a hold of me. And by the way, I only want one voicemail.'””
Mobile workers can access data applications over a wireless LAN, and over a carrier’s general packet radio services (GPRS) infrastructure using a virtual private (VPN) client, White said.
Although early adopters of VoWLAN tended to be retail or health care workers, the Motorola phone will appeal to a wider range of users, Leathurby said.
“”We, along with Motorola, are going to position it as more of a replacement or an adjunct to desktop capabilities, because you get full access to our (private branch exchange) functionality,”” he said.