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Vendor group aims to boost voice over Wi-Fi

Touts fast handoff standard

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A group of suppliers led by SpectraLink is pushing the IEEE to set up a study group for a future voice over Wi-Fi standard. The companies were hopeful that their proposal would be adopted at the currently ongoing IEEE summit in Vancouver, Canada, though sources believe that is unlikely to happen.

Unlike the current quality of service standard-in-waiting 802.11e, which boosts VoWLan by allowing voice calls to be prioritized over data, the mooted new specification – likely to be called 802.11o – would focus on handover between different access points within the building as callers move between them. This roaming is supported in existing Wi-Fi but causes a brief break in the data stream – not significant to data traffic but unacceptable for voice calls. And the upcoming 802.11i security standard worsens the situation by extending handover to as much as 70 milliseconds, impossible for voice calls.

The new group, which was spun out of the 802.11i task group, will work on fast handoff that is still fully secure and compatible with WPA and 802.11i. SpectraLink, a leader in voice over WLan handsets, Airespace, whose WLAN switches are voice-optimized, Symbol, whose engineer Clint Chapin chairs the body, and other vendors are already working on their proposal under the banner of The Fast Roaming Study Group, even though the project is unlikely to be officially authorized by the IEEE until March. The ubiquitous Intel has also expressed interest.

Current voice over WLAN solutions use proprietary handover techniques, and Cisco has taken its usual approach of offering its own extensions for voice with the aim of making these a de facto standard. ®

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Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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