In order for voice over wireless LANs to take off among businesses, it will take a lot of collaboration among the large industry vendors. Cisco Systems took some steps toward that vision by partnering with Intel, Nokia, Research In Motion, and other tech companies to drive adoption of what it calls "voice-ready wireless networks."
Cisco said Tuesday the goal of its partnerships with Intel, Nokia, and RIM is to ensure that wireless client devices interoperate with Cisco's WLAN products and are capable of supporting advanced voice features. Cisco already sells a foundation for voice communications over WLANs called its Unified Wireless Network, which includes features such as quality-of-service measurement, roaming, and access points with enhanced radios, the company says.
To test other vendors' products for interoperability, Cisco created a Compatible Extensions program. A program participant, such as a maker of a WLAN client adapter or a client device, must first develop features that support Cisco, and then submit the product to an independent lab for testing. Products that pass the tests earn a Cisco-compatible logo and can be deployed on top of Cisco's WLAN infrastructure.
What the partnership lacks at the moment is any products to talk about. Cisco says it's leaving that to its program partners to announce. RIM, for example, already sells a BlackBerry device that works with WLANs instead of cellular networks. It makes sense that kind of product will interoperate with Cisco gear, so IT administrators could more easily manage wireless voice communications. Voice over wireless means companies can extend the voice-over-IP networks they already have and converge them with WLANs. It has the potential to change the way people stay connected at work, letting employees to take their phone extensions wherever they go.