Mobile VoIP Part 5 - Beyond the campus

Adam Turner concludes his mobile VoIP feature by considering how to make VoIP mobile beyond your office or campus.

PREVIOUSLY: Making mobile VoIP work

Using mobile VoIP away from the office means finding another data network, whether it be Wi-Fi or your carrier's mobile data network.

Oppressive mobile data charges make VoIP calls over mobile data networks impractical with many telcos, but offerings such as the X-Series plans on Hutchison's 3 networks will start to change this. Meanwhile it's generally more cost effective to stick to Wi-Fi networks when making mobile VoIP calls away from the office, using either Wi-Fi points at home or in public places.

Making mobile VoIP calls from public Wi-Fi hotspots, linking back to your corporate PABX, presents a range of security and quality of service challenges, says Dimension Data enterprise architect Darren Kay.

"VoIP calls from public wireless hot spots will certainly take off over time. I think Blackberry has got a Wi-Fi phone which can actually support a VPN client so you can VPN in via the hotspot and make internal calls. But in the short time I'd say the home is going to be the main focal point," Kay says.

"I already have requests for mobile VoIP at home, connecting back to the corporate phone system so a CEO's work extension goes directly to his mobile when he's a home. He wants to put Wi-Fi into his twelve million dollar house and use a dual mode handset because his GSM coverage is pathetic. In the US they call it UMA, Unlicensed Mobile Access, when you use a Wi-Fi network to extend the mobility coverage. It's going to be popular, especially with executives and other people who work from home."

Following the growing trend, in some countries consumer mobile VoIP offerings are more advanced than what is available to corporate users.

UK-based Truphone takes advantage of VoIP features built into recent Nokia handsets to offer VoIP over GSM, a trick also pulled off by another UK company called Fring.

British Telecom's BT Fusion service "fuses" a mobile and landline phone for home users, routing mobile calls through a BT-supplied Wi-Fi access point using VoIP and charging landline rates for calls from mobiles. The service also works with BT Openzone public Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the UK. In the US, cellular network operator T-Mobile also allows customers to make low cost VoIP calls via home Wi-Fi base stations or through T-Mobile's 8500 public hotspots. Efforts to introduce such services in Australia, such as by Hutchison's Orange (now part of 3), were done by changing local call rates for mobile calls made from home rather than actually diverting calls off the mobile network.

Home users can cobble together their own dual mode system using a VoIP client such as Skype on a Wi-Fi-enabled smartphone, says Kay.

"The average home user hasn't yet done it in Australia yet because I just don't think it's been easy. Still, I doubt it will be that long before a service provider starts offering that kind of functionality at home," he says.

"Once people can do such things with their personal mobile phone they'll start expecting the same functionality from their work mobile phone. There was a time when people had access to the best technology at work, but today the functionality of their consumer services at home generally outpaces what they get at the office. If workplaces don't try to keep up, people will just start bypassing their IT department and using consumer-grade services at work. If businesses want to stay in control of technology used in their workplace, they need to keep pace."


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