Sidebar: A Guide to VoIP Hardware

A year ago, IT managers would have had few choices when purchasing Wi-Fi VoIP infrastructure or phone hardware. But since the start of this year, major telecommunications manufacturers have jumped into the Wi-Fi VoIP field, vying for market share with a handful of start-ups that have developed products to meet the technical challenges of placing a voice phone call over a WLAN.

In fact, three of the biggest names in telecommunications hardware have based their Wi-Fi VoIP products on WLAN switches from Airespace. Alcatel, Nortel and the NEC America Inc. division of NEC Corp. all plan to resell versions of Airespace's WLAN switches, which promise handoffs between access points with latency of 30 seconds or less.

Start-up Meru Networks Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., has taken a similar switch-based approach with equally speedy results, while industry veteran Proxim has tweaked its latest family of access points to handle voice handoffs with shorter latency than earlier products.

All these companies are vying with Cisco, which dominates the enterprise WLAN market. Earlier this month, it added enhanced WLAN management to its Catalyst 6500 series wired network switches. Cisco said this will allow enterprises to control integrated wired and wireless networks from a single device, called a Wireless LAN Service Module. The WLSM manages wired and wireless firewalls, intrusion detection and content filtering. SpectraLink has agreements with Alcatel and Nortel to resell its phones, and last year Cisco jumped into the market with its own Wi-Fi handset.

Chris Kozup, an analyst at Meta Group, says the handoff requirements of voice phone calls require a far more robust WLAN architecture than a data network does. He says network managers must choose and deploy their infrastructure hardware with more care than data-only networks, which have more tolerance for slow handoffs. That said, enterprises have a variety of choices for both infrastructure and phones, including wireless softphone clients.

Infrastructure Hardware
Airespace Inc.

• Airespace 4000 WLAN Switch, $11,000
• Airespace 1200 AP, $400
• Airespace Control System Software, $4,000Rebranded and sold by Alcatel, NEC America and Nortel
(866) 546-2100 / (408) 635-2000

Cisco Systems Inc.
• Wireless LAN Services Module, $18,000
• Cisco Aironet 1100 Access Point,
• Cisco Aironet 1200 Access Point,
(800) 553-6387

Meru Networks Inc.
Packages consist of the following:
• Meru System Controller (switch), $7,995
• Meru Access Points, $695
• Meru System Director (software), no charge; bundled with controller and access points
(408) 215-5300

Proxim Corp.
• Orinoco AP-4000, sold through resellers for $580 to $650
(800) 229-1630 / (408) 731-3675

Cisco Systems

• Cisco 7920 Wireless IP Phone, $595
SpectraLink Corp.
• NetLink e340, sold through resellers for $370 to $470
• NetLink i640, sold through resellers for $490 to $600
(800) 676-5465 / (303) 440-5330

ZyXel Communications Corp.
• Prestige 2000W, sold through resellers for $259 to $299

Hands-free Communicators
Vocera Communications Inc.

• Vocera Communications Badge
• Vocera Systems Software Enterprise licenses on a sliding scale based on number of users; an average badge costs $300 per user
(800) 331-6356 / (408) 790-4101

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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