Cisco trialling WiFi/GSM dual mode phones

Cisco is trialling dual mode phones that move from WiFi to GSM networks, with Dimension Data estimating 30% call cost savings are on offer ... if substantial technical issues can be overcome.

Networking giant Cisco has established two "dual mode" phone pilot sites in Australia, using Nokia handsets to bypass mobile phone networks and make calls through wireless hotspots.

The Australian pilots, conducted by Cisco in conjunction with partner Dimension Data, are in the manufacturing and engineering sectors.

Dimension Data is tight-lipped on the details, but the pilots use the recently released Nokia Intellisync Call Connect for Cisco software to integrate Nokia E61, E61i and E65 mobile phones to a Cisco unified messaging system.

Based on Cisco's Skinny Client Control Protocol (SCCP), the software runs on WiFi-enabled mobile phones to allow them to route calls via a wireless LAN rather than a mobile phone network.

"We've been waiting for the software to come out from Nokia," says Dimension Data enterprise architect Darren Kay.

"Just internally we've estimated a 20 to 30 per cent cost savings if Dimension Data rolls it out. Most of our employees receive mobile phone calls while they're in the office and away from their desk. Assuming some of those calls are from other staff, if we can keep those calls on our network then there's a big saving to be made."

Speaking at last week's Dimension Data and Cisco Unified Communications Media Roundtable, Kay said the biggest inhibitor to dual phone take up is the planning required for a successful deployment.

"Running voice across a wireless network is totally different to data, especially if you want to roam between floors and access points whilst having a conversation," Kay says.

"I think it will take off slowly, I don't think they'll see rapid adoption in the last six months. I think the big advantage of dual phones comes when you're got large campuses or multiple offices, that's when it really kicks in with the savings."

While Cisco's initial Australian dual phone trails are in the workplace, Dimension Data Chief Technology Officer Gerard Florian predicts strong interest in dual phones amongst home users looking to consolidate their telecommunications devices rather than use a separate phone to take advantage of VoIP.

While dual phone may migrate from the workplace to the home, the growing trend is for staff to expect employers to keep pace with the technologies they have access to home, Florian says.

"As consumers are becoming more educated they're coming into the office with requests, saying 'I can do this at home, I'd like to do it in the office'," he says.

"There's a war for talent, there is a war for the best and brightest in this industry. The best and brightest expect to be able to leverage these technologies because they've been doing it for years at home or at university. Whether it's the ability to communicate over the internet visually, whether it's the ability to use wireless or a particular device - they asking to do it at work."

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