Bridging Wi

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2004-03-31 Print this article Print

-Fi and VOIP"> Bridging Wi-Fi and VOIP Ive been yearning for an effective bridge between cellular and Wi-Fi-based VOIP phones for years. I want one phone, one number, that works great on a cellular network as I roam around town, and then on my wireless broadband network at home and in the office.
The phones are finally here. Sony Ericssons lame P900 has built-in Wi-Fi, as does Nokias forthcoming Communicator 9500. The Treo, Samsung i600 and other smartphones could as well, once Sandisk provides SmartPhone 2002 and Palm OS drivers for its SDIO Wi-Fi card.
Last week at CTIA, though, I got some depressing news from the telcos I talked to. Roaming and billing are the big problems, they claimed, in making my dream reality. Its hard enough to hand off a call from cell-site to cell-site. Adding in Wi-Fi, with the possibility of roaming from access point to access point to cellular, creates a thorny and almost intractable problem. Sigh. I take that sigh back. Here at VON I sat down with LongBoard, which claims to have solved the problem. Their edge device, a telco-installed switch, enables Wi-Fi to VOIP routing. Heres how it works. The companys software runs on your Wi-Fi/cellular phone. When you make a call, it determines which of the available networks are stronger, and uses that network to make the call. The companys box, installed at the telco, routes the call, and communicates using a 1XRTT or GPRS data channel back to the app running on the phone. Between the two of them, they monitor signal strength for both networks, and switch between them when one fades. For example, imagine a call initiated via VOIP on a Wi-Fi network. If it begins to fade, the phone signals the switch, which initiates another connection from switch to phone using the cellular network. The phone ends up with two conference-style connections to the switch. If the Wi-Fi signal fades too far, the phone quickly switches over (within 300 milliseconds) to the cellular connection. Go back in range, and the connection switches again. You cant buy the service today, but a major European wireline telco will be rolling the system out in a series of trials, which will culminate in publicly available service later this year. Here in the U.S., a major hospital is trialing the system—because cell phones can interfere with certain medical equipment. The trial hospital expects to replace a variety of phones and pagers with a single phone. Billings another problem, but the company claims to have that solved too—by working with large partners like Siemens. Im looking forward to seeing some successful trials—and giving up all these phones and phone numbers for one device that roams with me everywhere. Next page: Intertex Delivers SMB SIP Server.

With more than 20 years experience in consulting, technology, computers and media, Jim Louderback has pioneered many significant new innovations.

While building computer systems for Fortune 100 companies in the '80s, Jim developed innovative client-server computing models, implementing some of the first successful LAN-based client-server systems. He also created a highly successful iterative development methodology uniquely suited to this new systems architecture.

As Lab Director at PC Week, Jim developed and refined the product review as an essential news story. He expanded the lab to California, and created significant competitive advantage for the leading IT weekly.

When he became editor-in-chief of Windows Sources in 1995, he inherited a magazine teetering on the brink of failure. In six short months, he turned the publication into a money-maker, by refocusing it entirely on the new Windows 95. Newsstand sales tripled, and his magazine won industry awards for excellence of design and content.

In 1997, Jim launched TechTV's content, creating and nurturing a highly successful mix of help, product information, news and entertainment. He appeared in numerous segments on the network, and hosted the enormously popular Fresh Gear show for three years.

In 1999, he developed the 'Best of CES' awards program in partnership with CEA, the parent company of the CES trade show. This innovative program, where new products were judged directly on the trade show floor, was a resounding success, and continues today.

In 2000, Jim began developing, a daily, live, 8 hour TechTV news program called TechLive. Called 'the CNBC of Technology,' TechLive delivered a daily day-long dose of market news, product information, technology reporting and CEO interviews. After its highly successful launch in April of 2001, Jim managed the entire organization, along with setting editorial direction for the balance of TechTV.

In the summer or 2002, Jim joined Ziff Davis Media to be Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Media Properties, including, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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