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VoIP startup untethers would-be mobile workers from wireline office phones

VoIP startup DiVitas Networks has voice-over-WiFi-to-cellular technology in the works that gives endusers access to enterprise apps and puts dual-mode handset management in the hands of network administrators.

VoIP startup DiVitas Networks says it's time to set would-be mobile workers free from the limitations of wireline business phones.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is taking on the emerging voice-over-WiFi-to-cellular convergence space with dual-mode handsets that seamlessly transition calls between Wi-Fi and cellular connections, depending on which service is available from their location.

DiVitas is putting an innovative Voice over IP (VoIP) spin on its solution, however, which it claims will benefit enterprises both in cost and flexibility -- freeing up so-called corridor warriors immobilized by wireline phones. The solution also gives end users access to stored enterprise applications and information.

"This is really a VoIP application first. If you look at the first application we are mobilizing, it is voice," said DiVitas president and CEO Vivek Khuller. "We are extending all of the features of existing desk phones and moving them on to mobile phones. The entire user experience is going to be a presence-based experience."

DiVitas has developed an appliance that sits in the data center or wiring closet as well as a SIP software client that runs on smartphones and dual-mode handsets. The enterprise appliance and client pair extends the enterprise reach and provides seamless roaming over enterprise Wi-Fi, public Wi-Fi, and cellular networks while remaining under enterprise control.

"We are leveraging enterprise and public Wi-Fi," Khuller said. "Users won't have to worry about which network they are on, and our solution masks any idiosyncrasies, just like when you are driving and your cell call doesn't drop when you move from one base station to another."

Three major enterprise challenges are addressed by the DiVitas solution, according to Khuller: cost, control and integration of applications with communications. The company aims to leverage IP telephony to provide mobility for the majority of workers at a cost comparable to that of existing desktop solutions.

On the end-user side, the platform addresses the fact that collaborative applications and associated data are not equally available.

The ideal scenario created by the DiVitas platform, according to Khuller, would simultaneously give mobile users uninterrupted access to both enterprise applications and communications.

To that end, the DiVitas system will give end users access to enterprise applications directly from their handsets while they are engaged in a call. This means, for example, that a doctor could receive a call from a patient and simultaneously access the patient's records from his handset while chatting. Or a salesperson could access inventory information while talking to a customer.

The way it works, Khuller said, goes like this. When a mobile worker makes a call from the office, it uses enterprise Wi-Fi. The number is being dialed out by the DiVitas server. The call placed from the office is actually a mobile call connected via the server.

When that mobile worker leaves the office and gets in his car to drive, the Wi-Fi service is no longer available. The server recognizes that the mobile worker is out of range and seamlessly connects the call to the company's cellular provider. If that worker reaches his destination and is still on the same call, the software will dock back to the DiVitas appliance over the nearest available Wi-Fi connection.

"The system allows you to use Wi-Fi as much as possible. Whenever Wi-Fi is available, the server will try to use it," Khuller said.

Once its product is released, DiVitas will go head-to-head with companies vying to offer similar options for voice-over-wireless-to-cellular convergence, such as Kineto Wireless and Bridgeport Networks. These companies differ, however, because they rely on the carriers' Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) and IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS) approaches for their solutions.

Once ready for market, carrier solutions will provide some heavy hitting choices for network managers deciding on the best system for their enterprise. But the nearly one-year-old startup DiVitas is lighter on its feet and will likely be able to bring product to market faster.

"If you want to do it now, the enterprise route is the way to go. Carriers have a lot of painful issues they still have to worry about," said Craig Mathias, principal with Farpoint Group.

According to DiVitas, carrier solutions mean that the enterprises' system sits in the carrier cloud and will be strictly controlled and managed by the carriers such as Verizon and Cingular. A carrier-controlled solution prevents enterprises from customizing the solution to meet specific mobility needs of end users, Khuller said.

In contrast, the DiVitas approach puts the control in the hands of the enterprise, giving organizations control over application integration and customization. Moreover, to save cost, the solution uses Wi-Fi, except during periods where cellular coverage is the only connectivity option available.

"[Convergence] is one of the major directions in wireless," Mathias said. "The concept of being able to unify all of your communications into a single form factor and everything works the same. In concept, that's where we want to go."

DiVitas is anticipating the day when dual-mode handsets will replace the desktop phone just as the laptop has replaced the desk computer system.

"What are the two things a person gets when they join a company? A laptop and a phone," Khuller said. "You can carry the laptop around, but not the phone. The phone came first, technology-wise, and yet it's still tethered, whereas the laptop is already mobile."

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