VoWLAN and IP DECT devices, unveiled this week by Avaya, are targeted at the latest breed of mobile workers: the campus nomads who don't leave the workplace but are rarely at their desks.
This new type of mobile worker, who is mobile within the boundaries of a distributed enterprise, has needs different from those of the typical teleworker, remote worker or road warrior. In many cases, it doesn't make sense for companies to pay for mobile devices and cell phones for workers who only need connectivity while on the enterprise campus.
Recent data from Juniper Research suggests that Voice over WLAN (VoWLAN) sales to enterprises will grow over the next five years, jumping from $2 billion this year to $15 billion by 2012.
According to Terry Robinson, an Avaya director of product management, workers who are nomadic while on campus will fuel a lot of that VoWLAN growth.
Robinson said the Avaya 3641 and 3645 VoWLAN handsets, announced this week, are rugged IP wireless devices designed for industrial environments such as warehouses and hospitals. The devices, which keep workers connected using VoIP over the wireless LAN, support 802.11 a/b/g and enhance voice quality through reduced wireless interference. The devices allow push-to-talk functionality for instant communications and can be integrated with third-party applications such as messaging, nurse call systems and alarm alerts.
Another VoWLAN handset, the Avaya 3631, features a color display and uses 802.11 b and g WLANs. It's designed to be easily installed on any WLAN network.
Along with the new VoWLAN devices, Avaya this week released a handset that uses IP Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology (DECT). The Avaya 3711 uses IP DECT, which was recently ratified by the FCC for use in North America. IP DECT is a voice-optimized alternative to Wi-Fi, offering scalable and secure wireless voice communications using cordless technologies. DECT, according to some experts, is ideal for organizations that do not want to commingle voice and data on the same wireless network, ensuring that voice communications receive top priority. With so much traffic already traversing the WLAN, IP DECT provides a way to keep voice separate while also eliminating some of the congestion on the WLAN.
IP DECT, Robinson said, encrypts voice traffic. Where the wireless LAN mixes data and voice traffic, a DECT network optimizes voice while also allowing for alerts and SMS messaging. Instead of a wireless access point, which VoWLAN devices use, IP DECT uses a radio fixed port, which functions as an access point.
These new devices are for all types of internally mobile workers, including warehouse supervisors, corporate managers and healthcare workers. The education market is also key, Robinson said, especially because of its high demand for mobile communications.
One education user, Kansas State University, needed mobile video communications so that personnel could be productive while traversing its large campus, which consists of approximately 100 buildings.
"I often leave my desk to handle all different types of errands across campus," Grubbs said. "With my old wireless phone, there were too many steps to take to manage communications when I left my desk."
"[The new device] makes it simpler to conference call, speed-dial or manage multiple lines while I am roaming on campus," she added. "It makes my job so much easier."
Along with its in-building wireless capabilities, Kansas State's mobility also goes outside campus walls, using the Avaya Extension to Cellular, which lets mobile workers receive incoming desk calls on their cell phones. For example, an end user who leaves campus can receive any call that comes into his desk phone.
Kansas State was guided through its VoWLAN deployment by SKC, an Avaya Authorized Business Partner. SKC offered support and counsel during the university's beta testing phase.
"Businesses require their employees to be increasingly mobile – their success relies on it," said Geoffrey Baird, Avaya's vice president and general manager of applications, mobile and small systems division. "This in turn drives the demand for devices that make individuals more productive even while not at a desk."