Cisco and T-Mobile USA today announced Wi-Fi Calling for Business to help ensure reliable voice calls over Wi-Fi as well as seamless roaming of voice and data traffic between Wi-Fi and cellular networks for smartphone users.
The two companies collaborated on the system, which can help companies lower communication costs by putting more mobile voice and data calls over often-free Wi-Fi networks than on cellular networks, where monthly usage fees and expensive per-minute charges on international calls apply.
Cisco and T-Mobile named Cytec Industries as an early adopter of the service. Marc Rohleder, director of sales engineering at T-Mobile, said that about about 1,000 of Cytec's 6,000 workers have used the service for about six months, with the company now putting about 30% of its mobile calls over Wi-Fi.
"That translates to cost savings," Rohleder said in an interview, although he didn't specify how much. Cytec has global operations and 28 sites in the U.S. alone where connecting over a Wi-Fi network would virtually cut out mobile service costs, he said. International roaming charges over cellular connections are generally very expensive, but can be avoided using Wi-Fi, he explained.
Cytec was not willing to discuss the new service or cost savings.
Rohleder said that T-Mobile also benefits with the new service. "For us, we're the only major U.S. carrier to offer the service, so it gives us a greater reach into enterprises that wouldn't be inclined to go to T-Mobile" for network services.
Cytec consolidated a number of mobile carriers onto T-Mobile, getting attractive rates that are enhanced partly because T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom already operates cellular networks in 14 countries and partners with operators of 45,000 Wi-Fi hotspots globally, Rohleder added.
The new service requires a Cisco wireless LAN infrastructure, which Cytec had deployed. The Cisco infrastructure includes Cisco's Unified Wireless Network technology and Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX), which is software to improve quality of service, roaming and power savings and must be embedded in silicon on smartphones using the system. So far, CCX is supported in BlackBerry and Nokia smartphones, both in use at Cytec.
Cisco is working to expand the use of CCX on other popular smartphones, including iPhone and Android, said Chris Kozup, director of mobility marketing at Cisco.
The handoffs between Wi-Fi and cellular are also enhanced with T-Mobile's use of the Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) standard, which is an Internet Protocol extension of T-Mobile's GSM/EDGE network, Rohleder said. UMA has been in use for four years at T-Mobile to enable Wi-Fi calling; the network extension handles 40 million calls a month.
T-Mobile announced Wi-Fi Calling for some Android smartphones on Oct. 6, adding them to several earlier Wi-Fi supported Nokia and BlackBerry smartphones. The four Android devices ready for Wi-Fi at T-Mobile are the T-Mobile MyTouch 4G, LG Optimus T, the G2, and the Motorola Defy. While they are Wi-Fi enabled, they do not support CCX yet, Rohleder said.
Cisco and T-Mobile did not discuss the cost of a typical Wi-Fi Calling for Business system, since it would involve variable costs for a Cisco Wi-Fi network and T-Mobile cellular service costs.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is email@example.com.