A Big Step Forward for VoIP over Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi Alliance announces Voice-Personal certification program to promote high quality equipment for calls over WLANs.

By David Needle | Posted Jul 2, 2008
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From wired to wireless, you have more ways than ever to make a low-cost or free call using voice over IP. The industry group Wi-Fi Alliance has announced a certification program this week for "Voice Over Wi-Fi." The program will test the interoperability of devices as well their performance in making calls. Products that pass receive a Wi-Fi Certified Voice Personal certification.

(Just to clarify, VoIP over mobile phones has grown rapidly over the past 18 months, but two distinct networking technologies are at work here: wide-area cellular data networks and wireless local-area networks (WLANs or Wi-Fi networks). Voice over Wi-Fi—also known as VoFi—requires a phone with WLAN technology built in. While there are a few Wi-Fi-only phones, the trend is toward dual-mode mobile phones, which sport both cellular and Wi-Fi networking capabilities)

"We work with many of the key companies before some of these products are commercially available to get them certified," Edgar Figueroa, executive director of the Wi-Fi Alliance, told our sister website InternetNews.com. "There are some converged phones that will be announced shortly that have already received the Voice-Personal certification."

A number of router and access point devices have also received early certification, including products from Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Intel, Meru Networks, and Redpine.

While VoIP calls sometimes lack the quality and consistency of landline calls, Figueroa said the Voice-Personal certification process is designed to minimize such issues. Among its battery of tests, the Alliance tests for key metrics related to voice quality: packet loss, latency, and jitter, he said. Certified products will consistently prioritize voice communications over data, or multimedia traffic.

"If the jitter is more than 50 milliseconds or changes and jumps around, that's not acceptable," Figueroa said. "And no more than 1 percent packet loss. Any device that fails these tests is unacceptable."

The availability of Wi-Fi access points (network nodes) has been growing rapidly for several years. ABI Research reported this week that shipments of consumer-oriented 802.11n Wi-Fi access points are expected to see a dramatic increase over the next five years, rising from just 6 million this year to a forecast 88 million in 2013.

Another research firm confirms rapid growth for converged devices. "We are seeing increasing expectations from wireless subscribers that handsets include Wi-Fi technology to handle both voice and data, and carriers are responding in kind with an interesting array of offerings combining Wi-Fi and cellular service," said Victoria Fodale, manager of market data/intelligence for In-Stat, in a statement.

"Delivering a high-quality user experience with Voice over Wi-Fi will be critical to the success of converged service offerings, so the Wi-Fi Certified Voice-Personal testing program is an important step for the industry," she said.

Adapted from a story first published on internetnews.com

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