24 August 2005 Enterprise adoption of unified communications in Europe looks set to soar in the next five years according to market watchers, as businesses begin deploying wireless networks capable of handling voice traffic.
According to analyst Frost &Sullivan, spending on voice over wireless local area network (VoWLAN) technology will rise from EU6.6 million in 2004 to EU1.99 billion in 2006.
But that spending will not begin until important technical standards have been agreed to support the technology.
Many organisations have already invested in wireless local area networks (WLAN), allowing users to connect wirelessly to a campus network, without needing ports and cables. Frost and Sullivan predicts that upgrading these networks to carry voice traffic will prove compelling.
But there are a number of technical hurdles to overcome. According to Frost &Sullivan, businesses will need to wait until the 802.11e and the 802.11r standards have been ratified before considering VoWLAN adoption.
The 802.11e standard will prioritise voice over data applications, ensuring that business can be confident that the quality of service is high enough for an enterprise voice service.
The 802.11r standard aims to implement smoother hand-offs between access points, to provide a seamless service.
Analyst group Gartner also estimates that the deployment cost of VoWLAN is at least twice that of a data-only network, and the dual-mode wifi handsets required are also costly.
Mobile phone manufacturers and telecoms providers are currently developing handsets that can use wifi networks to make voice calls.
A group of 14 vendors has formed the Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) group. But while this will improve handset availability, analysts say that a lack of support for the Session Initiation Protocol and the IP Multimedia Subsystem standards limit UMA’s appeal.
“The MobileIGNITE Alliance is a long-term solution for carriers moving towards a converged, all IP network based on the IMS architecture,” said Luke Thomas, research analyst at Frost &Sullivan.