SpectraLink Wi-Fi phones expand to a, b, g networks

New multi-network phones let employees talk everywhere a wireless LAN reaches, avoiding cellular bills and using traditional phone features

SpectraLink is giving enterprises more flexibility with its Wi-Fi phones, introducing handsets that can work on all the major standard wireless LAN systems.

The NetLink 8000 Series phones, announced Wednesday and shipping in the first quarter, support the IEEE 802.11a, b, and g standards. Its previous phones supported only 802.11b.

SpectraLink's phones use VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) for communication inside enterprises over Wi-Fi. They let employees talk everywhere a company's wireless LAN reaches, avoiding cellular bills and using traditional phone-system features such as extension dialing. Starting in 1999, the company got an early start on this technology, which has been embraced by certain industries such as health care but could gain wider acceptance as more mainstream organizations deploy wireless LANs.

Although the low-speed 802.11b works well for voice, which doesn't require much bandwidth, SpectraLink is adding the other standards in order to keep up with what enterprises are installing, said Ben Guderian, SpectraLink's vice president of marketing. With higher speeds, they may provide more capacity, and some companies use 802.11a because it bypasses the crowded 2.4GHz radio band. The upcoming 802.11n standard could improve coverage in tough areas such as elevator shafts, but enterprises aren't asking for 11n support yet, Guderian said.

In addition to communication on the run, SpectraLink's phones offer special features, including the ability to work with enterprise applications such as database access and customer relationship management via two-way text messaging. The NetLink 8020 includes those basic capabilities, and the NetLink 8030 has push-to-talk capability with 24 channels plus a special priority channel for emergency broadcasts.

SpectraLink's phones work with enterprise-class wireless LANs from all the major vendors, including Cisco Systems Inc., Symbol Technologies Inc., Aruba Wireless Networks Inc. and Trapeze Networks Inc., Guderian said. SpectraLink Voice Priority software and the Wi-Fi Multimedia standard provide the power management and quality of service phones require, he said. The phones also can work with major IP PBX (private branch exchange) platforms and even with traditional PBXes through a gateway. The company makes Wi-Fi phones sold by Nortel Networks Corp., Avaya Inc. and other big telephony vendors.

The NetLink 8020 will have a list price of US$595 and the 8030 will cost $675. Battery packs, sold separately, range from 4 hours to 8 hours of talk time and cost from $55 to $95. Standby time ranges from 80 hours to 160 hours.

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