Wireless Trio Forging Tighter Links for Cell Phones, WLANs

By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2003-01-27

Three major wireless industry companies are teaming to help business travelers stay connected to their businesses even when they are moving between networks.

Motorola Inc., of Arlington Heights, Ill.; Avaya Inc., of Basking Ridge, N.J.; and Proxim Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., are collaborating on devices and supporting software and hardware that can roam between cell phone networks and WLANs (wireless LANs) without interruption.

The idea is that business travelers could take advantage of one of the public WLAN "hot spots" that are popping up in places such as airports and then pick up a cell phone network to continue a connection on the way back to the office. Conversely, a customer could use a VOIP (voice-over-IP) connection for a wireless phone call when connected to the corporate WLAN and then continue the conversation over a WAN when the phone is beyond the WLANs reach.


Vendors collaborating on wireless roaming include:
  • Motorola Building phones that can roam between WLANs and WANs
  • Avaya Building network management software
  • Proxim Building voice-enabled access points and management systems
  • The trio plans trials of the joint solution later this year, with commercial availability expected by the beginning of next year, said officials at the three companies. The initial service will focus on the handoff, with a wireless carrier providing only the WAN access and the corporate enterprises and the hot-spot providers handling the WLAN voice and data access. In the future, carriers may offer VOIP access in the enterprise and handle the billing for that, too, officials said.

    Motorola is building phones that include the ability to go between WLANs and WANs; Avaya is building the network management software; and Proxim is building voice-enabled WLAN access points, as well as management systems that facilitate handoffs between access points.

    The concept of roaming between networks is not new. Nokia Corp., for example, provides PC Cards that support 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, WLANs and Global System for Mobile Communications WANs. And police departments in Oakland and Orange County, Calif.; Baltimore; and Tucson, Ariz., have installed equipment in cruisers from Padcom Inc. that lets police roam between WLANs and WANs.

    But an effort by three major companies that cover each aspect of wireless communication could spur the adoption of roaming services by the carriers. "It makes sense with these guys," said Pat Hurley, an analyst at TeleChoice Inc., in San Diego. "Motorola has a high share in infrastructure, and Proxim is a known access point provider. Billing could be a problem with roaming, so having Avaya in there rather than a startup could make a service provider more confident about offering something like this."

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