Bridging the gap between WiFi and cellular

Avaya Inc. of Basking Ridge, N.J., is announcing a new suite of products that add security and quality of service to voice-over-wireless LAN service.

The new access point and gateway make it easier to deploy telephone service over an 802.11 wireless LAN, combining the functionality of voice over IP with the mobility of a cellular phone.

The new products will enable transparent hand-off of calls from a WLAN to a cellular network.

Motorola Inc. expects to announce a handset capable of WiFi-to-cellular roaming by the end of the year.

'This required a lot of big effort between the companies,' said Mack Leathurby, marketing director for Avaya technical alliances.

The Avaya products already have the cellular functionality built in, Leathurby said.

'We are beginning to see some of the trials of it, but we will continue to tweak it until the final availability of it at the end of this year,' he said.

The system includes the W-310 Gateway and the W-110 Light Access Point. The intelligent gateway handles authentication and priority of service over the wireless network. Up to 16 access points can be connected by Ethernet to each gateway, and up to 32 gateways can be stacked.

The access point is a rebranded product from Proxim Corp. of Sunnyvale, Calif., and the gateway was jointly developed by the two companies and integrated with the Motorola handset. Avaya now sells a WiFi handset that is slightly larger than a cellular phone.

The system supports 802.11a, b and g, as well as the recently approved 802.11i standard for improved security.

The health care industry has been an early adopter of voice over WiFi, Leathurby said. 'We've had a lot of luck selling WiFi phones' into hospitals, where staff spend a lot of time on patient floors. Voice over WiFi eliminates the dead spots often found in cellular service inside buildings.

Dave Ensor, vice president of public sector solutions architecture, said the WLAN telephony lends itself to large government facilities such as the Pentagon, where people are away from their desks a good deal of the time. But so far adoption has been slow. The company has been providing shipboard wireless telephony to the Navy, but concerns about security and quality of service have stalled wider adoption. The company hopes the improved functionality of the new products will help overcome those concerns.

The W-310 Gateway has a list price of $8,995 and the W-110 Light Access Point has a list price of $495.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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