Cisco Teams With Partners To Improve VoWLAN Performance

Nokia plans to build new voice-ready features into wireless devices such as dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi phones, RIM is looking at ways to push the technology into its BlackBerry devices and Intel plans to build the new technology into its mobile chipsets, said Ben Gibson, director of wireless marketing at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.

The three vendors are among the first to use the newest version of Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX), a toolset that Cisco offers to device vendors to ensure compatibility with its WLAN infrastructure. The latest version of CCX, which launched last month and also is available to other vendors, includes new features that Cisco says should be built into client devices to optimize the performance of VoWLANs by improving communications between clients and access points.

"Over the course of the next two to three quarters, we expect to see the new features baked into client devices," Gibson said.

For example, new specifications in CCX call for devices to ping access points when they want to connect instead of traditional deployments in which access points constantly ping devices to ask if they "want to talk."

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"The fact that the client proactively talks to the infrastructure creates a significant benefit to battery conservation," Gibson said. Battery power is conserved because devices no longer have to respond to the constant requests from the access point.

CCX also adds Call Admission features that enable access points to cap the number of voice users that can connect, which help protect call quality. In addition, new load-balancing capabilities can direct a device to associate with a different access point if the first one is full.

Voice could be the application that drives pervasive rollouts of WLAN technology, which today tends to be limited to vertical market and departmental deployments, said Brad King, vice president of wireless at NetVersant, a solution provider. in Houston

" 'Carpeted' customers really haven't deployed wireless because they've been waiting for a killer app. Voice could be that killer app," King said.

NetVersant's wireless business is on track to double this year. However, only about 5 percent of the solution provider's wireless customers run VoIP over their WLANs.

"The market just hasn't been ready, but you will see hyper growth [in VoWLAN deployments] in the next two to three years," King said.