Wi-Fi/Cellular at Convergence Crossroads

The convergence of mobile networks and devices could extend coverage and simplify access, but loose ends linger.

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Users can have a single phone number that reaches them on the campus Wi-Fi network, which extends across a space of 300,000 square feet, or on the cellular network when they are out of the office -- provided that the number called is the IP PBX number, says Nowak. The system extends phone calls, four-digit PBX dialing and phone transfers to the Cingular network; employees use browser-based Outlook Web Access on the CN620 for e-mail, he says.

John DeFeo, corporate vice president of enterprise products at Motorola, says this setup is in a half-dozen trials around the world, but Motorola has decided not to deploy the CN620 as a commercial product. Rather, the company intends to enhance the handset and related system components with unified mailboxes, presence capabilities, enterprise-class instant messaging and possibly additional Wi-Fi radio support. The next-generation system is scheduled to ship in the first half of next year, according to a company spokeswoman.

While a range of converged devices are already emerging, some IT executives would rather see cellular service stabilized and coverage enhanced before getting still more sexy handset choices.

Dale N. Frantz, CIO at Auto Warehousing Co. in Tacoma, Wash., says, "[The] bane of my existence is that people love Treo [handheld] devices, because the push technology for 'always-on' e-mail access is unreliable. The network drops sessions and user credentials between cell towers and creates a significant support burden.

"It seems there haven't been many performance gains in cellular communications," adds Frantz. "I believe that stabilizing the network services is at least as important as delivering the next device that plays 'Yankee Doodle Dandy.' "

Converged Wi-Fi/Cellular Services

PROS: Greater cumulative wireless network coverage; fewer devices and connection fees per user; uninterrupted VPN and voice sessions across network boundaries.CONS: Dual-mode device availability is sparse; accountability for end-to-end service quality and troubleshooting across multiple operators networks remains an issue and poses potential security risks. BEST FIT: Salespeople, field service workers and highly mobile executives.
TECH SPECS: Mobile/Wireless Technologies

EDGE75-135Kbit/sec.Wide-area data access for highly mobile users (field service, public safety, sales force, road warriors)Widely available domestically and internationally
1xEV-DO400-700Kbit/sec.Available in about three-fourths of the U.S.'s major markets domestically; somewhat available internationally
1xRTT30-70Kbit/sec.Widely available domestically
UMTS/HSDPA400-700Kbit/sec.Available domestically in about 20 markets
1xEV-DO Rev. A3.1Mbit/sec. downlink, 1.8Mbit/sec. uplink (shared)Wide-area mobile data, voice and video access for highly mobile usersServices expected in 2006
Mobile alternative to cabled Ethernet
Higher-speed alternative to cellular, with limits on coverage and range
Indoor enterprise mesh network to alleviate cabling limitations and costs
Outdoor municipal and public-safety mesh network services
Infrastructure products widely available; clients less pervasive
802.11b6-7Mbit/sec.Widely deployed
802.11g24-30Mbit/sec. in 11g-only mode; 14-19Mbit/sec. with 11b clientsWidely deployed
802.11n100Mbit/sec.IEEE Draft 1.0 rejected as proposed standard; a final standard and commercial products are expected in 2007
802.16-2004 (fixed)70Mbit/sec. shared
Last-mile access with quicker provisioning than T1
Backhaul between mesh networks
Standards-based services in trials with AT&T and others
802.16e/802.16-2005 (mobile)1.6Mbit/sec. per subscriber for a 100-subscriber sectorWide-area mobile data, voice and video access for roaming usersPoised for 2006 trial in the Sprint Nextel network; embedded notebook connections and network services expected in late 2007

Wexler is an independent networking technology writer/editor in California's Silicon Valley. You can contact her at joanie@jwexler.com.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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