VoWLAN Heats Up

By Vikki Lipset

March 03, 2004

Two leading voice players have entered the emerging voice over wireless LAN (VoWLAN) market with new products that integrate technology from a couple of startups.

In what could be a big boost for the growing voice over wireless LAN (VoWLAN) market, Nortel Networks and Alcatel both announced offerings this week that add voice capabilities to their WLAN product lines.

The companies will resell Wi-Fi handsets, access points (AP) and switches from SpectraLink and Airespace. Both Nortel and Alcatel say their versions bring something extra to the table.

"It's their hardware, but our special sauce," said Diane Schmidt, director of marketing for Nortel's WLAN portfolio, of the company's new Adaptive WLAN deployment solution, which is comprised of a security switch and access ports that the company says are optimized for VoWLAN.

She pointed to the ability to monitor and control the radio frequency domain as an example. This is key for customers who are looking at real-time applications such as wireless IP telephony and need nonstop coverage over their WLAN, she said.

"If there's a gap in coverage due to some interference or an AP drops out for some reason, because we have control over what happens across the air, we're able to transfer those connections to a device that can handle them, so users won't experience any downtime."

Nortel is also offering additional security features. "We're bringing the capabilities of our security switch -- things like rogue access point detection, support for VPNs -- into this solution as well," Schmidt noted.

"We've brought this airtight security into a realm that's notoriously porous," added Nortel spokesman Pat Cooper.

The Adaptive WLAN package will be available next month. It includes the 2230 (a/b/g) and 2231 (b/g) Access Ports ($599 and $499 respectively) and the 2270 Security Switch (starting at $10,999). The new Nortel VoWLAN products, which include the 2210 and 2211 handsets ($695 and $890 respectively), the WLAN IP Telephony Manager 2245 ($2500) and the WLAN Application Gateway 2246 (starting at $1600), are expected to be available in May.

Meanwhile, Alcatel is offering APs, switches and appliances under the OmniAccess name. OmniAccess 4000 wireless switches start $8,250, OmniAccess 4100 wireless appliances start at $13,685 and OmniAccess 1200 Access Points start at $400.

The company will introduce its version of SpectraLink's wireless handsets, branded as Mobile IP Touch 300 and 600, in September. The phones will work with Alcatel's OmniPCX family of IP-PBX systems.

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