EyeForWireless: Case Studies For VoWiFi

The panel discussion on best practices for voice over wireless LAN actually starts out with a discussion on the argument for VoIP (without wireless). While some people are talking about VoWiFi (or, if you must, VoWLAN), that may be a little early, since most companies still need to be convinced of the ROI on VoIP by itself. The presentation from Providence Health Systems makes the case for the benefits for VoIP, but also points out the high costs involved in making the switch – including tech support and the recommendation that a pilot be run using multiple vendors to make sure the technology really works (and, probably, to get a much more competitive bid from the vendors). In the case of Providence, they are running pilots with both Cisco and Avaya – and it sounds like Avaya is winning the battle in terms of technology and overall quality. As for the wireless part, they just mention using Vocera’s system in passing without going into any details. The overall summary is that VoIP reality is finally catching up to the hype from four or five years ago. Even with the initial costs, it should lead to seriously reduced costs as well as adding new and valuable services.

The second speaker, David Rupp (recently left Texas Instruments) explains the case for WLANs. This seems like a fairly historical presentation, as it’s talking about things that happened years ago, that most enterprises already know about – and anyone at this conference is probably familiar with already. Basically, WiFi is useful in the enterprise, and if you set up a wireless LAN, people will use it – and often use it in ways IT didn’t expect – but on the whole, people are much more productive with it. In fact, he claims the ROI on TI’s WiFi network was 5.2 days. Not months. Days.

Finally, though, after making the separate cases for VoIP and WiFi, Rich Watson (who arrived mid-panel) is here to explain the benefit of VoWiFi. He points out that while the combination is valuable, these are two emerging technologies, and it involves additional planning to set up. You can’t just figure out what you need to do to install VoIP or to install WiFi – but doing VoWiFi has some specific issues that need to be addressed concerning (among other things) coverage, congestion, quality of service and security. One major issue – especially for large areas – is figuring out how to handle roaming across access points, which is now being looked at by the 802.11r working group.

Panel summary: the case for WiFi is clear, the case for VoIP is mostly clear depending on the situation, and the case for VoWiFi is only there in a few specific circumstances. In other words, you probably should have a WiFi setup in your company, you should be exploring VoIP to see if it’s right, and you’re probably fine waiting for now on VoWiFi.

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