Net benefits

The wireless networking industry has matured and deployment of standards such as WiMax promise to revolutionise the sector

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By  Diana Milne Published  January 1, 2006

|~|networkbody1.jpg|~|Thin access points and radio ports can address the problem of a lack of bandwidth within wireless networks.|~|Until recently, wireless networking took place across a patchwork of disparate and incompatible systems, and usually in difficult ter rains where a fixed internet connection could not be established. But with the maturing of industry standards and wider deployment of lightweight wireless networking equipment, it has bec- ome a far safer and more reliable form of communication. The new 802.11i standards and WPA2 interoperability test, in particular, address privacy and protection problems previously associated with the technology. These changes will greatly increase the deployment of wireless networks in 2006 according to industry experts. “We will continue to see dedicated businesses using this technology,” says Bruno Hareng, product manager, Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) for HP Procurve. He claims, “We expect more businesses in general to start deploying wireless.” “In many corporations the tec-hnology is still in the testing stages and is only being deployed on a pilot basis in certain parts of the campus. But this year we will see some far bigger infrastructure deployments happening,” he goes on to add. Joseph Mehawej, Nortel’s Middle East marketing manager, is more positive. “Usage of wireless networking will definitely increase this year, particularly on the enterprise side,” he claims. One of the trends that experts predict for wireless networking is the deployment of wireless VoIP — or Voice over Wireless LAN (local area network). Michael Hong, marketing manager for Foundry Networks, be lieves this trend will be the ‘primary driver’ behind the wider adoption of wireless networks within corporations. “The largest untapped industry vertical for wireless networ- ks is in corporate enterprises,” he states. “Today, in corporate enterprises, the areas where wireless networks are of most value are where there are transitory and temporary users. “This includes areas such as conference rooms, training roo- ms, and sales offices. When the adoption of wireless VoIP begins to increase in the enterprise you will seen an increase in the wireless coverage requirements in corporate buildings and campuses,” he adds. Voice over wireless networks is also expected to be provided through mobile handsets that support both WiFi networks and wide area GSM and CDMA networks. Already vendors such as Nokia are producing handsets which support the 802.11 radio standard. And studies have shown that the technology can bring cost savings of up to 50% for users. “Everyone understands the value proposition of having voice communications while being mobile,” Hong states . “The popularity of cellular and mobile phones has demonstrated this. Can the same value be extracted from wireless 802-based technologies? The answer in 2006 may well be yes,” he goes on to reveal. One of the biggest challenges facing the development of wireless networks is lack of bandwidth, as the number of users increase. This problem will be addresed in 2006 through the deployment of multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) technology — in particular radio ports or Thin Access Points (TAPs) according to HP’s Hareng who sees this as the big trend for 2006. TAPs allow for load balancing whereby the power of the access point can be tuned according to the number of users connected to it. And if there are too many users on one access point then the power on the next access point can be adjusted accordingly to relieve the load. The technology also has a ‘fail over’ mechanism — if one acc- ess point fails, the power on the neighbouring access point will be increased for the users. Despite all these enhanceme-nts to wireless networking however, Hong warns that there are still serious security problems associated with the technology that need to be overcome. He predicts there will be further threats from rogue access points — access points that are not authorised to be on the network. “Even with 802.11i and WPA2, there still exist serious wireless security threats, many of which require new solutions and best practices to solve,” he claims. “Rogue access points are a security threat because they can provide easy and unprotected access to unauthorised users,” he says. “The demand for security and protection from rogue access points will be a trend in the coming year,” he predicts. The IEEE 802.16e standard extends the capabilities of WiMax to support portable and mobile usage. And service providers are confident that it won’t be long before WiMax-enabled noteb- ooks, PDAs and mobile phones hit the shelves. Following ratification of the IEEE 802.16e standard, the road ahead is clear for the development of these mobile WiMax-enabled devices. But in what order and will customers be able to experience ‘truly mobile’ WiMax in 2006? Both Motorola and Intel say the latter is unlikely. It needs further testing and development before it can be launched into the market place, they claim. Motorola believes users will be limited to fixed and nomadic WiMax connectivity in 2006. It is a point shared by Nokia. “The truly mobile network will not happen until some time in the future, because of the complexity involved in making this happen,” says Noel Kirkaldy Nokia’s EMEA manager of wireless broadband. “The usage we will see in 2006 will be in the fixed and nomadic space,” he adds. Nomadic connectivity is when users move into a temporary fixed space such as a metropolitan area network but use the device while they are stationary. Truly mobile connectivity is defined as a person moving at speed through different areas while still holding a call. “I think you will only start to see mobile WiMax in late 2006 or early 2007,” says Samir Al Schamma, Intel’s general man- ager for the GCC. “This year the products will be mostly tested and piloted. The real volume uptake will happen in 2007,” he goes on to add. The first stage in the adoption of mobile WiMax technology will involve customers installing PCMCIA cards into their computer. Then, in the latter part of the year or in early 2007, Intel will launch devices which will be embedded with a Centrino chip to enable mobile WiMax. “We’re looking at introducing Centrino-embedded WiMax pro- ducts in late 2006 ,” Al Schamma reveals. “This will enable users to save a great deal of power,” he goes on to claim. Centrino-embedded WiMax notebook PCs are expected to be followed by PDAs and mobile phones. Meanwhile, Nokia has plans to integrate WiMax and 3G capabilities in the same product, in order to give customers the best WiMax wide-area performance possible in metropolitan areas as well as the best possible WiMax coverage. “We are hoping that in 2006, we will be able to intergrate 3G and wireless LAN in the same device,” says Olli-Pekka Lintula, director, strategic marketing, Nokia. ”The advantage of this is, that you would be able to have the fastest possible connection at home, in the office and in a WiFi hotspot.” he adds. “VoIP would be part of the same package. So it would combine the best of both worlds,” he claims. The service providers are confident that mobile WiMax will be a success. And Intel says that, because of its geography, the Middle East will be a key adoptor of the technology. “In some parts of the region there is very low population density — unlike in areas like Tokyo where thousands of people live alongside each other — and it is cheap and easy to provide them with an internet connection,” Al Schamma says. “Trying to get a DSL connection to each home in an area of low density can be very costly. But going with a solution like WiMax is faster, cheaper and you don’t have to lay cables,” he asserts. Nokia expects a high demand from both residential and business customers. “In terms of consumers it will probably be consumers in metropolitan areas who want to enjoy new services delivered faster and internet connectivity with voice services,” says Lintula. “Business customers will also be a very important customer group. Their interest is in service convergence. And they want ubiquitous connectivity wherever they go,” he says.||**||The rise of VoIP|~|Al-Schammabody.jpg|~|Samir Al Schamma, Intel’s general manager for the GCC.|~|oice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has seen major growth in 2005 as more and more enterprises realise the massive cost benefits of using IP telephony to make and receive calls. Some service providers are optimistic about the future of the technology that they believe it will one day totally eclipse the traditional telephony system. They say things can only get better for VoIP and that 2006 will bring both enhancements to the technology and an even greater widening of its usage. “IP telephony is fast becoming a popular deployment option for corporations in the Middle East and across the world,” says Samer Al-Kharrat, general manager at Cisco Gulf and Pakistan. “It’s a technology that allows corporations both big and small to make costs savings but also to deploy a whole new set of applications that can greatly increase their productivity, ”he adds. Roger El-Tawil, channel and marketing manager for Avaya Middle East and North Africa (MENA), agrees. “VoIP is transforming the way businesses communicate today,” he claims, “The technology is now mature and is being adopted by critical customers in major corporations such as the banking sector and in the healthcare industry,” he goes on to add. There are a number of ways in which the VoIP is expected to develop in 2006 and beyond — the use of the technology for video telephony, for example. The advantage of IP telephony in that area is that it has its own dial plan and setup. Video can also be added to the system, mea- ning video conferencing should be simple and cost effective. Large corporations and SMBs are increasingly adopting IP call centre solutions. Cisco predicts that, when the technology is developed next year, video will be incorporated into the solution so that telephone customers can communication face-to-face with the representative on the line. “More and more companies are moving towards IP contact centers,” says Al- Kharrat, who also claims that, “Those using IP call centres will be able to reap the benefits of video.” “This will help them to increase customer satisfaction — particularly in the banking sector where many customers are accustomed to doing their transactions face to face with the bank teller,” he notes. “We are currently working with two large banks in that direction and we are talking to a lot of other global leaders about implementing this solution for them,” he reveals. Avaya is expected to release technology which will make setting up a telephony network even simpler for SMBs, following its acquisition of Nimcat — a provider of peer-to-peer (P2P) communications devices. The new technology will be built into telephone handsets. The phone instantly connects to the network simply by being plugged into a socket. And the same applies to other phones in any of the company’s branch offices across the world. “This eliminates the need to deploy a full PBX(private branch exchange) system because the phones already have PBX built into them,” explains Avaya’s El-Tawil. Avaya IP phones with VPNremote are embedded with Virtual Private Network (VPN) remote capabilities and enable telecommuting employees to quickly and cost effectively install the desktop IP phone in their home office in a similar way to how a laptop is connected for remote access via the internet. For example, after an IT administrator loads the new VPN software into the Avaya IP phone, a home office-based worker can just plug the phone into a power source, connect it to a home broadband router, enter a password and it is operable. “All the features and functions would be available to you — it would be a seamless transition from one environment to another,” El Tawil claims. Corporations who have already deployed VoIP solutions within their organisations will, within the next two years be able to add new applications to their existing systems and find ways of further enhancing their productivity using this technology. Cisco believes one way they will be able to do this will be through deployment more applications in XML. “This is where the telephone they are using effectively becomes a computer so they can publish information and news, take part in interactive services and many of the other functions they would normally carry out using a computer,” Al-Kharrat claims. Service providers hope to establish a standard that will allow VoIP to be based on a open-standard platform. “At the moment there is the problem of how different individuals using different devices from different vendors can talk to each other,” says El Tawil. “What will happen in the future will be the ability to be based on an open-standard platform so that everybody can talk to everybody else, he predicts. “SIP telephony is available today but a true standard will help to move the technology forward and will help to enable us to develop products that are truly SIP enabled,” he adds.||**||

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