VocalData Announces VoWAN Customer

By Jeff Goldman

July 30, 2004

A New Zealand wireless ISP is using the company's hosted IP telephony service to provide voice services.

Hosted IP telephony provider VocalData of Richardson, Texas, announced this week that the New Zealand-based ISP ihug is using VocalData's application server to provide voice over IP services to its customers in the Auckland, Hamilton, and Pukekohe areas of New Zealand.

What's striking about the announcement is that ihug is using a wireless network to provide those services.

Mark Whittier, VocalData's vice president of Marketing, says the deployment is a new step for the company. "They're the first, certainly of our customers, and perhaps of any of the folks in the hosted IP business, who have specifically chosen fixed wireless or broadband wireless as their access network technology," Whittier says.

In New Zealand, Whittier says, using wireless technology to deploy a solution like this just makes sense. "There are very few ditches run through the New Zealand countryside with conduit delivering much of anything," he says. "So in this particular case, they've put broadband wireless towers at the top of some appropriate mountains and hills delivering some sophisticated services--including voice over IP."

The announcement also marks an expansion of VocalData's global reach. The fact that an ISP in New Zealand would choose a provider based in Texas, Whittier believes, speaks to the quality and the reliability of VocalData's offering. "It represents a stake in the ground for us in that part of the world, and we're just kind of tickled that it happens to be a wireless implementation as well," Whittier says.

Still, this is VoWAN, not VoWLAN. In this case, the wireless technology is only being used to provide access to fixed locations, not to mobile devices. VocalData could provide the latter capability as well, Whittier says, if a customer wanted it. "We began looking at the challenges associated with delivering device-appropriate screen, feature, and application interfaces to wireless handheld devices over two years ago," he says.

VocalData has showcased that capability to prospects and customers over the past two years, Whittier says, but the company hasn't yet found a carrier that wanted to take it on. Barriers include the limited availability of Wi-Fi access, limited device availability, and interoperability issues. "There's sort of a picket fence of challenges that need to be overcome before we see a lot of widespread Wi-Fi use," he says.

The torrential rains that hit northern Texas this week, Whittier says, provided a perfect example of the technology's potential. "Our facility was pretty much drowned, so the first place I went to catch up on my calls, my e-mail, and everything else was the nearest Starbucks," he says. "Using VocalData's Web portal, I could just log in, click on the voice-mail of interest, and play it back through the speakers on my computer."

Until end users have a wider range of choices than just the nearest Starbucks, though, Whittier says there isn't likely to be a proliferation of VoIP over Wi-Fi solutions.

"Still, at least we're using those limited locations to address and solve the problem--the picket fence of challenges--to figure out how to do this," he says. "And maybe we'll have opportunities to do it in more places soon."

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