VoWLAN set to boom

In-Stat/MDR believes the voice over wireless local area network (VoWLAN) sector may be about to take off. It predicts that revenue will hit US$507 million in 2007, compared to US$16.5 million in 2002.

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By  Neil Denslow Published  March 16, 2003

Businesses have yet to truly embrace voice over wireless local area networks (VoWLANs), with less than 30,000 voice over 802.11b handsets shipping worldwide last year. However, In-Stat/MDR believes the sector maybe about to take off, and predicts that revenue will hit US$507 million in 2007, compared to US$16.5 million in 2002.

"This market will thrive for two reasons," says Gemma Paulo, senior analyst with In-Stat/MDR. "Wi-Fi WLANs have a growing installed base, so these customers are looking to add voice to their existing wireless networks. In addition, the LAN telephony market is growing, and In-Stat/MDR expects a percentage of this business to be wireless IP handsets. As demand from verticals such as education, healthcare, retail and logistics increases, then VoWLAN installations will enjoy healthy growth," she adds.

The research company also says that the most exciting part of the VoWLAN sector is new devices that are entering the market for use onsite by employees. Examples includes softphones, which enable pocket PCs to be used as telephones on Wi-Fi networks, and badge devices, which provide a relatively inexpensive way of allowing quick and hands free communication between mobile workers, such as nurses.

In the VoWLAN handset market, the top verticals remain healthcare, education and retail, sectors that have all been actively rolling out large scale enterprise WLAN for a few years. This market is dominated by SpectraLink and Symbol, but Cisco System is believed to be looking to enter the sector soon as well.

The ultimate vision for the business environment remains the development of a means of combining 2.5G or 3G mobile phones with Wi-Fi. This would then allow mobile phones to seamlessly switch between cellular and 802.11, even in the middle of a call. However, despite the efforts of vendors — notably Motorola, Proxim and Avaya, which announced a partnership in January 2003 to tackle this — the goal of seamless switching remains a distant dream.

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