Wi-Fi, cellular move closer to convergence with new devices

Motorola and HP are touting new combination Wi-Fi/cellular devices

Wi-Fi and cellular phone technology finally tied the knot with the introduction of two phones that combine the technologies into one device.

But the combo Wi-Fi phone from Motorola Inc. doesn't work with the already well-entrenched 802.11b Wi-Fi standard and will require instead the newer 802.11a standard.

Today, as expected (see story), Motorola Inc. introduced its CN620 phone, which acts as a voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone on Wi-Fi networks and a cell phone on Global System for Mobile (GSM) networks. Handoffs between the two networks are handled by technology developed by Avaya Inc. and Proxim Corp.

The CN620 can also handle data communications on both networks.

Just yesterday, Hewlett-Packard Co. and T-Mobile USA Inc. introduced an iPaq handheld computer that can roam without dropping a signal between 802.11b Wi-Fi hot spots operated by T-Mobile and the company's GSM cellular data network (see story). Although the new iPaq 6315 operates only in data mode on Wi-Fi and GSM networks, Rick Roesler, HP's vice president of handheld marketing, said HP and T-Mobile view a combined Wi-Fi, VoIP and GSM phone as a "very interesting" possibility.

The 6315 can also operate as a voice phone on the T-Mobile GSM network.

Motorola, based in Schaumburg, Ill., as well as HP and T-Mobile in Bellevue, Wash., are aiming their new combo phones at the enterprise market. The CN620 is part of Motorola's Enterprise Seamless Mobility suite of products, which includes a WLAN gateway jointly developed by Avaya and Proxim. The gateway acts as a switch controlling the access points and a communications manager from Proxim. The communications manager moves incoming phone calls from wired local and long-distance networks to the IP network, turning circuit-switched calls into IP-based traffic.

Ed Zander, chairman and CEO of Motorola, said in a statement that the Enterprise Seamless Mobility product line "will change the notion of work. Work will no longer be defined as where you are, but as what you do and how you do it. One device, one phone number, one voice mail -- and the key functionality of your office desktop -- on a single mobile device."

HP's Roesler said the new iPaq 6315 was developed to take advantage of a back-end enterprise infrastructure designed to support handheld devices as well as the proliferation of corporate Wi-Fi networks.

The Motorola enterprise mobility product line is designed to support easy handoffs of calls between Wi-Fi and GSM networks, with built-in intelligent routing through a gateway. This allows the CN620 to act as an extension of an enterprise private branch exchange, with all the features and functions of a wired desk phone.

A Motorola spokeswoman said the company built its combo phone architecture around the 802.11a standard, which has raw data rates of 54Mbit/sec. in the 5-GHz ban, because it has more capacity for voice phone calls than 802.11b, which has raw data rates of 11Mbit/sec. in the 2.4-GHz band.

She said enterprises that don't have an 802.11a network would need to install one to support the CN620. They would also have to purchase supporting hardware, such as the gateway, she said.

Craig Mathias, an analyst at Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass., said he is "surprised" the Motorola phone uses the 802.11a protocol, but said he expects enterprises to eventually install tri-mode Wi-Fi networks. Those networks use both the 802.11a/b standards, as well as the 802.11g standard, which has a raw data rate of 54Mbit/sec. in the 2.4-GHz band.


Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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