Take-up of voice over wireless local area network (VoWLAN) technology, which uses WiFi to hook mobile phones into voice-over-IP (VoIP) networks, is set to surge over the next few years.
According to analyst group, Frost & Sullivan, revenues for VoWLAN technologies in Europe will increase from a miniscule 36.6 million in 2004 to E1.99 billion in 2010 – a remarkable compound annual growth rate of 159%.
Nevertheless there are technical hurdles to be negotiated before emerging VoWLAN technologies are comprehensively adopted. For example, the 14 mobile and telecommunications companies that form the Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) group has driven the market so far by allowing 802.11-equipped handsets to make calls through WiFi hotspots.
But because UMA technology does not fully support the session initiation protocol (SIP) or the Internet protocol for multimedia systems (IMS), its long-term potential may be limited.
Instead Frost and Sullivan tips the MobileIGNITE Alliance, which focuses on SIP, as a more viable long-term method of providing multimedia applications like messaging, gaming and VoIP.
The introduction of dual-mode handsets and ratification of several 802.11 standards provides the foundation for the positive outlook. Once the Institute of Electrical Engineers' 802.11e standard is approved in the final quarter of 2005, different vendors' products will be interoperable, adding further fuel to the market.