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Flexible office, hot-desking, hotelling. At the end of the day they all mean the same thing, writes Rob Bamforth of Bloor Research. You've lost your prestigious office, your decorated cubicle or your desktop covered with personal memorabilia. Your company has gained from space saving, and can move staff between teams more easily. Welcome to the future.

While wireless laptops and an array of wireless access points can go some way to unwiring the local area network, the problem of the losing a fixed phone extension is usually solved a more expensive way. Desk to desk phone calls become mobile phone calls. So the expense saved in desktop real estate ends up being spent on the mobile phone bill.

There are ways to address the mobile voice call problem with clever exchanges, where deskless employees log in to the fixed phone they find on their desk. It's still not as easy as using the mobile, so yet other solutions tackle the cost of intra office mobile use with micro cells and operator deals. In-building mobile call quality can suffer due to the larger number of users compressed into the space or nearby motorways with large number of phone users. Building structures can also interfere with signals, so in building cells and repeaters can be used to address those problems too.

On the face of it, that's what Nextel and RadioFrame Networks announced this week. However their solution goes much further and deals with how increased in-building mobile phone use goes hand in hand with wireless LAN usage. This can become difficult to manage in a cost-effective way, and then there's the problem of standards evolving so fast that existing investments become obsolete far too quickly.

The RadioFrame Networks solution is based on an architecture of Base Unit, Airlink Chassis Units and RadioFrame Units (RFUs).

The Base Unit connects back to the network operator and into the enterprise local area network. The Airlink Chassis Units link via standard category 5 cabling to up to eight RFUs. These are small wireless racks about the size of a shoebox, which can be mounted within a building to provide coverage for wireless LAN and mobile phone networking.

Each RFU can contain up to seven low-power transceivers, or RadioBlades, each of which is a radio channel for a mobile protocol. The plug and play architecture allows additional 'blades' to be added to increase capacity, or new blades to support new standards as they emerge. There are blades for 802.11b wireless LAN, Motorola's Integrated Dispatch Enhanced Network (iDEN) and GSM. In addition to flexible network support, RadioFrame Networks provide a management system so that the mobile radio networks and access points can be centrally managed.

The combination of a managed in building cellular mobile coverage plus wireless LAN will become increasingly important as employees become mobile within their office as well as on the road. The ability for operators, like Nextel to be able to offer a service for all the wireless needs of their customers is very compelling. RadioFrame Networks have managed to combine two separate wireless growth areas in one very operator and enterprise friendly architecture.

One last thought - imagine the value of this approach applied to public hotspots...

© IT-Analysis.com

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