RIM unveils tool to allow BlackBerry voice over Wi-Fi

Software from RIM lets BlackBerry Wi-Fi calls be routed through corporate PBX

Research In Motion Ltd. today unveiled technology that will allow people to make voice calls via Wi-Fi using its BlackBerry smartphones.

The software, dubbed BlackBerry Mobile Voice System 5 (MVS 5), is expected to ship before the summer. Pricing plans were not announced.

Using the technology, calls from BlackBerry devices in Wi-Fi hot spots would be routed automatically through the PBX in the headquarters of the caller's company and then on to a receiver located anywhere in the world. The call would be priced at long-distance rates negotiated by the company with a carrier.

Even if a BlackBerry smartphone is operating on a cellular network, MVS 5 can automatically tell the headquarters PBX to initiate a long-distance call and make the connection at the corporate rate, Goguen said.

RIM said officials said development of the software was "not trivial."

Corporations have long sought such a mobile unified calling system to cut costs and improve worker productivity.

The RIM system is initially set up to work with Cisco Unified Communications Manager software and Cisco PBXs, but RIM is hoping to add support for the PBX offerings of other vendors, said Tom Goguen, RIM's vice president of product management for enterprise software.

Various calling systems from other vendors allow voice over Wi-Fi calls, including a service from T-Mobile USA called Wi-Fi Calling with MobileOffice, but Goguen noted that RIM's approach includes Blackberry Enterprise Server and its lauded security and controls. "It's a secure data gateway into the enterprise for call setup," he said. "Other solutions on the market are all basically walled gardens, and many can't use Wi-Fi or are really difficult to use."

Goguen said that being able to use a BlackBerry smartphone over Wi-Fi means that a worker's desk and mobile phones can have the same number, which implies that a single unified voice mail system and a single address book and other features would be possible.

"The key to this offer is that it's stunningly easy to use ... and will improve productivity," he said.

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 mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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