Siemens and Nortel have separately announced innovations in wireless LAN products for business users.
Siemens Communications announced HiPath MobileConnect to provide support for dual-mode calling between Wi-Fi and cellular networks on a single handset. MobileConnect includes server hardware that sits between an IP-PBX voice switch and wireless LAN, and a dual-mode handset software client, said Luc Roy, vice president of product planning for the Siemens mobile enterprise division.
Pricing for the hardware appliance starts at about US$6,600 and the client software is free.
In separate news, Nortel Networks announced voice capabilities, advanced security and location tracking in the latest version of its Wireless LAN 2300 Series switch, according to Kyle Klassen, director of enterprise wireless marketing at Nortel. Pricing starts at US$600 per access point (AP), with a minimum of 10 APs, he said.
The new 2300 Series version, release 5.0, which ships March 2, is already in production use at one of two buildings at the ProMedica Health System campus in Toledo, Ohio, said Cary Gene Houck, senior network engineer for the medical facility. It is being used by doctors and other health professionals and office workers. While one building is running the new version, the other is running an older version, he said.
The new software has been used successfully for about a month to support secure guest data access to the Internet and will support voice over Wi-Fi capabilities when new handsets arrive sometime after July 1, according to Houck. The wireless LAN has proven invaluable for doctors carrying handhelds who need updates on the condition of patients, he said.
"Obviously, it gives us flexibility," Houck said. Nortel's service and support has been excellent, making the switch a natural choice, he added. "They've been a good company, and maybe we could buy them cheaper, but we've stuck with Nortel because of good service."
Siemens said it has several customers already deploying its new MobileConnect products, but none were available for interviews. One is a major clothing retailer and manufacturer in Europe with 1,000 stores and 32,000 employees, Roy said. It is able to use the dual-mode network with an existing HiPath 8000 PBX and Nokia E60 and Fujitsu-Siemens Pocket LOOX dual-mode handsets, Roy said.
The benefit of dual-mode capability is that users have a single number and one mailbox for e-mail as well as seamless roaming across Wi-Fi and GSM cellular networks, Roy said. The Siemens technology is based on Session Initiation Protocol and, as such, is the first dual-mode capability of its kind, he said.
Chris Silva, an analyst at Forrester Research, said the Siemens MobileConnect product will do well in industries like health care and manufacturing. "When you look at the advantage to health care, the benefit of reaching a surgeon across cellular and Wi-Fi networks is pretty clear, but the benefit to a salesperson is a little fuzzy," Silva said.