Wi-Fi and cellular technology move closer to convergence

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

Wi-Fi and mobile phone technology have finally tied the knot with two products that combine the technologies into one device.

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

Motorola's CN620 phone acts as a VoIP phone on Wi-Fi networks and a cell phone on GSM networks. Handoffs between the two networks are handled by technology developed by Avaya and Proxim. The CN620 can also handle data communications on both networks. 

Hewlett-Packard and T-Mobile USA have 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.

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, HP and T-Mobile 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. 

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 54mbps in the 5GHz band, because it has more capacity for voice phone calls than 802.11b, which has raw data rates of 11mbps in the 2.4GHz 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. 

Bob Brewin writes for ComputerWorld


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