NEC Unified Solutions, a division of NEC, is announcing a converged communications system that the company said will give businesses a seamless wireless communications and mobility solution for their enterprise needs.
The Irving, Texas, company said that Univerge Assured Mobility is aimed at businesses of all sizes, from small and midsize enterprises to large organizations.
Univerge Assured Mobility offers users voice, data and real-time multimedia in an integrated wireless solution. The company said that the new solution is based on its third-generation WLAN (wireless LAN) products and uses what it calls a Wireless Optimized Architecture. The new architecture supports SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) over WLAN and features what the company said is seamless roaming between internal wireless LANs and external cellular networks.
The Assured Mobility product line consists of a variety of controllers and servers, depending on the requirements of the customer. It also includes NECs 1500 series access points, a WLAN management system, a new controller/access point product, and a WLAN IP phone. The new phone has a presence capability, a feature enabled by using SIP. The components for the Univerge Assured Mobility solution will be available starting in the fourth quarter of 2006.
NEC Manager of Product Management Sam Safa said the new Univerge system leverages NECs experience in the IP telephony market. "Were taking advantage of the features and functionality of our platform and making them wireless," Safa said. "Were truly integrating a lot of the IP telephony applications on the wireless handset."
Safa said that a key feature of the Univerge Assured Mobility system is that the controller can determine when traffic should travel directly between access points on the network edge rather than being routed through the controller. "Were showing the direct AP to AP path with intelligent switching," Safa said.
The ability for the handset on the WLAN to also support the public cell network is critical to the needs of enterprise users, Safa said. "If you look at what the mobile user needs and why they need those things, its always nice to have a phone, but if youre always telling callers that youll call the, back, what you need is application integration," Safa explained, "maybe youll see cellular and WiFi on the same device."
Safa said that NEC will release what he said is the first handset that will seamlessly integrate Wi-Fi and cell network capabilities. However, Siemens announced such a capability nearly a year ago, and was demonstrating it at CeBIT in March of 2006.
Security and assuring access are the primary challenges, Safa said. However, analyst Jean Kaplan said he thinks that the primary challenge may be NEC itself. "NEC is a bit late to market with this," said Kaplan, of IDC, based in Framingham, Mass. "Im not so sure that wireless LAN is really about technology any more. I think that theres a lot more to be said about how you get in front of your customer, how you sell your system and what your other selling points are besides technology."
However, Kaplan did acknowledge that NEC appears to have good technology. "Broadly I think that its a good technology thats coming into a fairly hard market," Kaplan said. "Its a fairly crowded market. Theyll have to differentiate themselves and integrate their business and maybe line up some channel partners," Kaplan added.
Kaplan said that NEC is making it easier for smaller enterprises to take advantage of the new approaches to WLAN management. "I think whats interesting is this idea that you can scale your system without a lot of fixed infrastructure," he said. "You can get their controlling access point to control three other access points, and if you want more, you can add another controlling access point and three more," he said. Kaplan said that the approach allows a midsize enterprise to scale up as needed.
Kaplan also noted that the midmarket is probably where NEC has the best shot. "Big enterprises go with Cisco and Aruba," he said. "The midmarket is fairly open because it has been underserved."
However, just because NEC is late to market doesnt mean that the effort wont pay off. "If they manage to upgrade their marketing strategy into a concerted pitch in delivering wireless to the enterprise, they have the scale to do it," Kaplan said. "They have an opportunity to go after some new business here," he added, "and if they treat the business correctly, they might be able to take advantage."