Wi-Fi Phone Options Expand

Zultys and Meru have each unveiled plans for Wi-Fi phones.

Zultys Technologies and Meru Networks Inc. have each unveiled plans for products that support voice services over a wireless LAN.

Zultys, which specializes in VOIP (voice over IP) technology, announced plans for its first Wi-Fi phone last week.

While several companies already offer phones that run over Wi-Fi, "our products differ from those of our competitors by being entirely based on open standards," said Iain Milnes, president of Zultys, in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Designed to be a desktop replacement, the WIP 2 runs on Linux and is compatible with any IP telephony system that uses SIP (Session Initiation Protocol).

For customers who require hands-free operation, the WIP 2 also works as a speakerphone. "If youre in the hospital and youve got bloody hands, you might not want to touch [the phone]," said Milnes.

The WIP 2 will be generally available in November.

Voice services over Wi-Fi are becoming more of a priority, according to a recent report from Infonetics Research Inc., of San Jose, Calif., which predicts a steady growth in Wi-Fi handsets through 2009.

"We have front-line supervisors, line mechanics, lift truck operators ... on the production floor with the need to communicate from the plant floor at all times, and these WLAN [wireless LAN] phones are their office extension with mobility," said Bo Smith, IS group manager for the network services group at McKee Foods Corp., in Collegedale, Tenn. McKee uses phones from Nortel Networks Ltd. with a WLAN infrastructure from Meru.

One of several WLAN switch makers in Silicon Valley, Meru has differentiated itself with a focus on voice services. Last week, the company introduced the Meru Voice Service Module—software that plugs into Merus line of controllers to improve the quality of Wi-Fi phone calls, officials said.

The module supports call balancing, in which the system can overlay channels and evenly distribute calls to available access points on the network. In places where not enough access points are available, however, the module supports call admission control; the IT manager can actively limit the calls that can be made in any area of the network at a given time.

For additional QOS (quality of service), the module includes an optional dynamic error-correction feature, which inserts a predictive sample into the voice flow when packets are lost to prevent a client from hearing gaps in the call. The module is available now.


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