Small businesses mapping out WLAN strategies will soon have another alternative to consider, as broadband telephony provider Vonage Holdings Corp. makes its way into the industry with its own hardware and through partnerships with Linksys and Netgear Inc.
Vonage last week announced plans to release by years end a VOIP (voice-over-IP) phone that runs over Wi-Fi networks. While initial plans call for targeting home- and small-office customers, Vonage will eventually serve international business travelers.
Within the next year, Vonage will add hot-spot roaming capabilities to its Wi-Fi phone, which will let customers use the device in areas such as hotels and coffee shops that charge nominal Wi-Fi service fees, officials said.
The company is also considering manufacturing a Wi-Fi phone for international business travelers looking to avoid expensive cellular roaming fees or whose cell phones dont work overseas.
Vonages initial Wi-Fi phone will be available through Vonage and, eventually, through retail channels. Pricing has yet to be determined.
Vonage also plans to team with major third-party manufacturers to put its VOIP software into their Wi-Fi-enabled devices.
Last week, Vonage announced a deal with Linksys, now the small-office wireless division of Cisco Systems Inc., whereby Vonage will resell its voice and data service with Linksys two new routers and VOIP phone adapter.
Separately, Vonage announced it is teaming with Netgear to develop a suite of products that incorporate VOIP and WLAN (wireless LAN) chip sets from Texas Instruments Inc.
The first of these will be a voice-enabled 802.11g wireless router. A two-port telephone adapter will follow, Vonage officials said. The products are due this fall.
Potential small-business customers like the idea of saving money by using an IP network rather than a cellular or wired network, but some are wary of the nascent technology.
"Until you can guarantee quality of service, Im not interested in voice over IP," said Steve Durst, a research engineer and co-founder of Skaion Corp., a computer security testing company in North Chelmsford, Mass.