With three new Wi-Fi technologies set to bolster VoIP quality, Cisco will announce this week partnerships with Nokia to build dual-mode VoIP and cellular handsets, and with Intel to create VoIP-enabled notebook PCs.
Cisco will update its wireless, client-to-network communications infrastructure CCX (Cisco Compatible Extensions) -- typically software burned into devices at the chipset level -- to support these new VoIP technologies.
Following the Cisco upgrade, dual-mode handsets from Nokia that include the latest version of CCX are expected in the fourth quarter.
The next generation of Intel Centrino chips will also include support for the latest CCX extensions.
A Research in Motion (RIM) spokesman, Mike McAndrews, vice president of product management, said that RIM currently supports CCX technology but that the company does not comment on future products.
The technology enables client-initiated communication with an AP (access point). This is a reversal of traditional WLAN technology in which the APs constantly poll the client for availability, often reducing battery life to unacceptable levels.
Now the client device will only "ping" the AP when it wants to talk, said Ben Gibson, director of wireless and mobility marketing at Cisco. The technology requires software in both the client and in the AP.
According to Gibson, this technology will dramatically increase battery life. Gibson said a VoIP-enabled phone will most likely have the same battery life as non-VoIP phones.
A second load-balancing technology recognizes when an AP has been fully subscribed and boosts power output or hands off a call to an adjacent AP.
Call Admission Control, a third technology, is designed to improve the quality of service for VoIP by allowing network managers to cap the number of users on a single AP.
"If there is no more bandwidth available, the system needs to recognize that and not admit another call," Gibson said. Gibson noted that this capability is extremely important for VoIP to handle e911 calls.
Nokia currently ships Wi-Fi-enabled phones that will work at public hotspots, according to Tom Libretto, director of marketing at Nokia Enterprise Solutions.
"Our phone platform is optimized to do that. But if you want to take advantage of a corporate telephony environment and you want more control, you will need this additional Cisco technology," Libretto said.
Although the technology is proprietary now, Abner Germanow, director of enterprise networking at IDC, said it will most likely be offered up to a standards body by Cisco.
"Once this is rolled out, then they [Cisco] will work with the standards bodies to make that function a standard," Germanow said.
Germanow said there are numerous efforts among handset vendors, infrastructure vendors, and other relevant players such as IP PBX vendors to come up with ways to deploy faster, less expensive, non-proprietary technologies for VoIP.