Convert a Pocket PC PDA To a Wireless Phone

TeleSym lets you use a WiFi-connected Pocket PC 2002 device as a VoIP phone that gives surprisingly clear sound-for a price.

If you use a Pocket PC 2002 PDA that has wireless LAN capabilities, add one more item to your able-to-do list: Make phone calls.

The TeleSym SymPhone System ($3,000 to $28,000 list for 10 to 100 licenses) is designed for enterprise workgroups. It supports PDA-to-PDA calls on the same network or calls across the globe if you are within range of a designated access point. The SymPhone System NP ($5,000 to $34,200 list for 10 to 100 users) adds PDA-to-phone voice communication from any location. These SymPhone systems are worth considering for businesses that want an alternative to two-way radios or want to leverage their investment in wireless PDAs by saving on phone charges when possible.

You need at least two of the three SymPhone components for a working system. The SymPhone Client software installs the interface on your PDA to manage incoming and outgoing calls. The interface includes an on-screen dial pad and phone book; unfortunately, the phone book is not integrated with Microsoft Pocket Outlook on the PDA. The SymPhone Call Server application enables the PDA client software to make and receive calls. It also provides a directory of other SymPhone users.

With these two components installed, you can make PDA-to-PDA calls free of charge. In order to call conventional phones from your SymPhone-enabled PDA, your company needs to install the third component, SymPhone Connector. The current version of SymPhone Connector is for the 3Com NBX public switched telephone network (PSTN) server, with others to follow. With the three system components installed, you can make PDA-to-phone calls, though since calls go through your PBX, normal phone charges apply.

We tested SymPhone System NP with a Compaq iPAQ 3850 with a 802.11b wireless network card installed in the PDAs expansion pack. When making calls from the iPAQ to conventional phones, including landline and Sprint PCS digital phones, the voice quality was so good the recipient would have no clue that you were not calling from a conventional phone. In calls between two PDAs, one in Connecticut and one in Washington, D.C., the voice quality was also excellent, without the gap or latency problems that have plagued earlier Voice over IP applications.

The SymPhone systems are a good solution for companies that want to make the most of their PDA investments while also gaining a backup to the traditional phone system.