VoIP Over Wi-Fi Poised To Spread Quickly - InformationWeek

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VoIP Over Wi-Fi Poised To Spread Quickly

VoIP over WiFi networks, like the one now being implemented in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, could soon spread like wildfire to other municipalities, attendees at the VON Fall 2005 conference in Boston were told.

The folks who rolled out the nation’s first metropolitan-wide Wi-Fi network in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, are implementing VoIP over WiFi. They told an audience at the VON Fall 2005 conference in Boston that VoIP over Wi-Fi will be ready for prime time in other municipalities in the coming months. VON, billed as the "voice over the Net" conference, is the industry's major voice over Internet protocol trade show.

“We think Wi-Fi Metro can do everything and be like an electricity utility,” said Tyler Van Houwelingen of Azulstar Networks, which is the Wi-Fi provider in Rio Rancho. “We can sell unlimited telephone and broadband service for under $40 and that’s the best in the business.”

Van Houwelingen, who is the founder and CEO of Azulstar, said VoIP functions well in fixed locations and reasonably well in mobile situations in which users are moving about the 103-square-mile Wi-Fi metro area. The Rio Rancho network plan calls for customers being able to use SIP phones when traveling at speeds up to 55 miles an hour.

“Mobility for VoIP is most complex,” he said, adding that mobile Wi-Fi in Rio Rancho should be perfected in a few months as new handsets come to market. “All the big handset guys are working on it," Van Houwelingen said, adding that the handsets should have improved antennas and power consumption savings for mobile use.

Van Houwelingen said VoWi-Fi will be an important feature for usage in the eight metro Wi-Fi nets that Azulstar has been rolling out, because the technology will enable the service to compete with entrenched telephone companies.

He noted that the major telephone companies and cable providers are opposed to the widespread rollout of Wi-Fi. Others have noted that Rio Rancho, the home of a major Intel facility, welcomed the Wi-Fi coverage to cover the community’s 63,000 residents. Intel, which includes Wi-Fi capability in many of its chips, is a major sponsor and promoter of Wi-Fi. Van Houwelingen said the Rio Rancho network has some 400 access points, a fiber link, and pre-WiMAX mesh architecture.

The Metro network was accomplished in a partnership with the city government of Rio Rancho, a suburb of Albuquerque with a high percentage of high tech workers. In return for giving Azulstar rights to construct its network, the city receives a percentage of revenues in a sliding scale format that increases as the number of subscribers grows. Azulstar began signing up subscribers in late spring. The city uses the network for its services and public safety work while paying customers are divided into individual residential accounts and business accounts.

Another speaker at the VON session, Andrew Buffmire, president and chief executive officer of Ecuity Advanced Communications, noted that his firm carries out backhaul voice functions for the Rio Rancho network. “It’s too big a chunk for a single company to do everything,” he said. “So it’s an integrated solution.”

Fanny Mlinarsky, founder and chief technology officer of Azimuth Systems, told the packed VON session that IEEE 802.11 has several committees working on VoWi-Fi ranging from power consumption and fast roaming to security and interoperability. “Voice is a demanding application and it will stretch the capabilities of Wi-Fi,” she said. “But the complex standards are emerging to support VoWi-Fi.”

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