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VoIP: Probing Further

Filed under: Cordless Phones
Jenny @ November 6, 2007 | 8:16 am

VoIP services for mobile cordless phones have yet to establish a firm foothold on the telecommunications market. This is despite the apparent availability of suitable technologies that are well suited to making the arrangement work.

Adoption troubles might keep services from expanding, at least until the launch of next-generation mobile network by carriers, a number of panelists claimed at a debate on the issue. The even was held at the NetEvents summit in Malta late November of this year.

Emir Halilovic, who is the programme manager of networking and infrastructure at analysts IDC, states that VoIP is still a fixed-line market at large. So while multimedia gains in the mobile industry are growing at a quick rate, the growth continues to be confined to a very small and thus limited, base. “Mobile applications are a very, very small slice of that whole market. Still, there is a great promise in both [mobile VoIP and multi-media] because the ecosystem elements are all there, although it’s still not fully functional.”

Connecting existing GSM as well as 3G Radio Access Networks to VoIP systems would bring the price and feature benefits of VoIP to all those cordless phone handsets. VoIP on mobile networks also provides spectrum usage advantages to a great many users.

However inviting the prospects look, one pretty pickle remains. The technology, after all, goes against providing comparable services via Wi-Fi networks. Wi-Fi-based services necessitate new multi-mode cordless phone handsets and client software, along with relevant investments in developing and upgrading already existing wireless networks. Since providers are already seeing to these concerns, it’s not exactly as big a problem as some might think. The inherent ways and behavior of a user is the greater evil of the two.

Dean Bubley, who is the founder of Disruptive Analysis, stated that the market for conventional voice calls is still at a high and continues to be secure and stable. “Ordinary GSM cellular is not going to go away any time soon, particularly for the 60 to 70 per cent of mobile subscribers who are prepaid customers and more particularly for those who don’t have access to broadband[...]. Although Wi-Fi and dual-mode devices are becoming available in wider numbers they are not used by many people for VoIP. There’s some traction in enterprise which has been pretty slow coming. Certainly we’re not going to see double-digit percentages of the global subscriber base using VoIP on wireless LANs[...]. I’m a huge disbeliever in metro Wi-Fi for VoIP simply because the external Wi-Fi doesn’t penetrate into building, so it’s pretty much useless for the majority of calls.”

On the whole though, Bubley expressed views that were far more positive when talks turned to the use of 3.5 and 4G networks to serve as a platform for VoIP and thus, for consumer electronic devices such as VoiP cordless phones, saying the “next generation of mobile networks are designed for VoIP”.

Thus, businesses with a commendable flat-rate tarriff can operate VoIP over a 3G connection. That is, so long as they do it well within the terms, conditions as well as regulations, no matter if the operation itself remains largely out of the commonplace and the conventional for quite a number of years yet. VoIP on wireless networks is beset by troubles involving quality of service and coverage. “I think through that in five years you will have more people using Voice-over-3G network than using it with Wi-Fi. But both of those numbers will remain dwarfed by people just using circuit-to-cellular,” Bubley mused even further.

Michael Coci, who is currently the product marketing director at wireless switch vendor Trapeze Networks, shared that assigning extra traffic onto wireless LANs was indeed a reasonable, even practical alternative to go for, particularly for businesses. “In the enterprise environment you have a much deeper amount of control over the RF environment, over the handset, over the quality of service. And in the environment it’s absolutely a viable, and in fact, ultimately for a better solution than Voice-over-3G.”

IDC’s Halilovic concludes the debate by saying: “It’s is our firm belief that all voice will be eventually be transferred over IP. Whether it is going to be in our lifetimes, is open to debate.”

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