Cisco Systems plans to start shipping its Wi-Fi mobile phone to US channel partners in June, with availability in other countries soon after.
The phone - model number 7920 - communicates only with 802.11b technology and is designed for use within enterprises rather than totally replacing a cell phone, said Charlie Giancarlo, senior vice-president of switching, voice and carrier systems. However, Cisco is in talks with cell phone makers about the possibility of adding cell phone capability to such a device, which might carry the Cisco brand.
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The 7920 joins Cisco's 7960 IP phone, which sits on a desk and plugs into a wired Ethernet network, and brings the added benefit of mobility around a building or campus that has a wireless LAN.
The new phone could be ideal for environments such as retail stores where employees need to move around a site during the work day, Giancarlo said. A phone that combines Wi-Fi with wide-area cell phone capability would be well suited to mobile professionals who frequently use a cell phone for business calls, he added.
No price has been set yet for the 7920, which is currently in beta testing. The phone should deliver two hours of talk time and 24 hours of standby time before the need to recharge, he said.
Companies are starting to embrace IP telephony now that problems such as quality of service have been worked out, according to James Pratt, vice-president of sales at Netcom Group, a value-added reseller.
Customers are turning to IP telephony because it simplifies their network infrastructures and can lower costs, and a mobile IP phone would be attractive to many companies because it would let them add mobility without paying for cell phone airtime, Pratt said.