Moves under way by such companies as Symbol Technologies Inc., IBM, Avaya Inc. and Proxim Corp. could give enterprises and mobile users alike greater network flexibility and, ultimately, extended range.
Symbol and IBM are working together to bring Symbols vertical-market expertise to IBMs WebSphere Everyplace and Workplace management software, officials of the two companies said last week.
"Under the covers, weve been working on interfaces that tie into IBMs software," said David Green, director of global strategic alliances at Symbol, in Holtsville, N.Y.
On the back end, the two companies are working on services that enable WLAN (wireless LAN)-to-WAN roaming by combining Symbols switching hardware with IBMs wireless middleware and management software. The products will be aimed at enterprise users and carriers, several of which are planning to offer WLAN-to-WAN roaming, IBM officials said. On the client side, the companies have integrated bar-code support into the WebSphere wireless software.
IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., is also considering developing automated services that bridge voice and data, officials said. With such services, a customer could call an automated system for airplane flight schedules, make requests through voice prompts and receive a data reply.
IBM also plans eventually to add push-based e-mail support to its WebSphere software to compete directly against Research In Motion Ltd.s BlackBerry Enterprise Server, officials said.
Elsewhere in the industry, other roaming efforts are under way. Avaya, Proxim and Motorola Inc. are each testing devices and supporting software that can allow mobile customers to roam between cellular networks and WLANs.
Avaya, of Basking Ridge, N.J., and Proxim are collaborating on a 16-port voice-focused switch thats due by the end of June, said Kevin Duffy, Proxims chief technical officer, in Sunnyvale, Calif. Twelve- and 24-port switches are due by years end, Duffy said.
Motorola officials in Arlington Heights, Ill., said a handset supporting WLANs and cellular networks is pending but declined to give a due date. "We recognize the legitimacy comes when the carriers are ready to commit," Duffy said.
The carriers have begun roaming trials.
"Were working closely with AT&T Wireless [Services Inc.] to implement a local GSM/GPRS [Global System for Mobile Communications/ General Packet Radio Service] network inside our hospitals that will roam to the standard cellular [WAN]," said John Halamka, CIO of CareGroup Healthcare System, a Boston-area hospital group. "The advantage is having a standard device for local- and wide-area communication, call routing to our local PBX from devices used inside our buildings, and lower radio power levels," Halamka said.
"Were planning a pilot of Vocera [Communications Inc.s] hands-free Wi-Fi phones to learn about ... wireless voice over IP," Halamka added.