TI Puts VoWLAN in Phone Chip

By Ed Sutherland

September 21, 2004

In a moved that's good for companies like Vonage, the chipmaker will enhance support for WLANs in its products for cell phones.

Chipmaker Texas Instruments (TI) has announced the integration of voice over WLAN with a popular processing architecture it uses in many cellular phones.

The TNETV1600 platform "provides the cost savings, flexibility and power management to allow developers to manufacture a WLAN IP phone with talk and standby time comparable to cell phones," according to the Dallas, Texas-based company.

Based on TI's OMAP processor, the new chipset couples its WLAN silicon with the company's Telogy Software for VoIP. The design includes the TLV320AIC22C dual channel audio codec integrating both handset and headset on one chip, as well as power and battery management.

Phones using the new architecture will be available by the end of 2004, says Fred Zimmerman, executive director of TI's CPE Solutions Unit. For the first time, TI's WLAN chip will support 802.11g, rather than just 802.11b as in earlier versions, according to Zimmerman.

"This technology will enable portable IP phones for use on WLAN networks, allowing users to roam throughout an enterprise campus or home," according to a statement from TI.

A reference design is already available to TI customers.

Ascom Wireless Solutions of Switzerland says it will use the new VoIP platform. "The combination of VoIP and WLAN is a very promising platform for our target market segments," said Stefan Bramberg, CTO of Ascom. TI says there are also customers for the new platform in Asia and the U.S., but declined to be more specific.

What will this mean for companies like Vonage, the Edison, N.J., firm promoting VoIP in the home? "It's huge," says Louis Holder, Vice President of Product Development for the company. "This enables more people" to adopt VoIP.

"Coupling broadband telephony with mobility presents tremendous cost savings, flexibility and new feature opportunities for consumers using residential VoIP," said Jeffrey Citron, chairman and CEO of Vonage. "It makes sense for TI to enable the creation of these next-generation IP-based portable devices."

In January, Vonage announced it would work with TI to include its software in TI's chips. At the same time, wireless router makers Netgear and Linksys have built Vonage support into new home wireless 802.11g routers using TI chips.

That announcement meant cable and DSL modems, along with other home and office networking gear would make placing calls over the Internet easier.

"Vonage and others were counting on this to make their vision of VoIP WLAN phones a reality," says Allen Nogee, analyst with research firm In-Stat/MDR. "VoWLAN is slowly making its way into cellular devices, and technology such as TI's is making this possible."

The news from TI is a "good step and one piece of the puzzle on a long journey," according to Julie Ask, research director with Jupiter Research.

Adding VoIP to TI's cellular phone architecture is "actually the second generation of wireless IP phones," according to Zimmerman. In 2003, TI added features to its WLAN chipsets encouraging router makers to add VoIP abilities.



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