Though not in the vanguard of enterprise-focused F/MC solutions, Agito’s RoamAnywhere Mobility Router nonetheless offered a number of unique approaches to addressing the problems inherent in handing off phone calls between cellular and IP networks.
For example, the RoamAnywhere solution uses calibrated physical location, in addition to signal quality metrics, to trigger handover—providing a cleaner, quicker handover that doesn’t depend solely on deteriorating call quality as a catalyst.
Then again, the Agito solution is designed as an adjunct to an existing PBX and makes no attempt to provide PBX functionality. This in turn provides several tactical advantages:
Phone traffic does not run through the RoamAnywhere appliance, which in fact handles only signaling. Phones connect endpoint to endpoint. Thus, router failure doesn’t interrupt in-progress calls.
Furthermore, administration is simplified, in that route plans and phone connections to the PBX don’t have to be disrupted.
Finally, multiple RoamAnywhere appliances can reside in the network, providing more or less instant failover, should the primary Mobility Router go down for any reason.
Today, Agito announces version 2.2, a major upgrade of the RoamAnywhere application we first wrote about in July.
What struck us as perhaps the most noteworthy addition to the application is a feature Agito is calling Secure Remote Voice (SRV), an application-level encryption function that is quite transparent to the end user.
“We’re hearing from customers that they have employees that are part-time teleworkers, remote workers, international travelers that are going abroad and wanting to take advantage of Wi-Fi in their hotel rooms,” explained Pejman Roshan, Agito’s cofounder and vice president of marketing. “So we’ve expanded our horizons to use not only enterprise Wi-Fi, but to use public Wi-Fi, whether it’s from home, hotspot, or hotel.”
When a user places an IP call from outside the enterprise network, SRV creates a secure (SSL) tunnel back to the Mobility Router (which would appear to be an exception to the idea that voice traffic bypasses the router). The secure tunnel will only move voice traffic; no other application data can travel it.
According to Roshan, deploying security at the application level (rather than at the network level using a VPN) is far simpler to execute—as SSL is a default-supported protocol on most firewalls. It is much easier to use strong authentication, via digital certificates, compared with VPN-centric strong authentication methods, which could be extremely cumbersome to execute on a mobile phone.
Moreover, “When you do it at the application layer, you’re only letting one application go through—and the data from that application—not exposing the entire network,” Roshan pointed out. By contrast, “anyone who hacks the VPN connection has access to the entire network,” he said.
Finally, use of SRV is totally transparent. “You don’t even notice, as a user, that this is turned on—except that on the phone-user interface, you see a couple of Agito icons pop up with locks on them. That tells you that the connection is now secured,” he said.
Another feature of v. 2.2—designed primarily to save money on international calls—is Dynamic Least-Cost Routing.
“I’m making a lot of conference calls to Europe these days,” Roshan told VoIPplanet.com. “If I were doing them on my mobile phone, I would be paying [the carrier] about $1.50 per minute. If I make them from my landline, I would be paying roughly 10 cents per minute.
“My typical con-calls are about 20 minutes. At mobile rates, that’s about a $30 phone call. When we turn on Dynamic Least-Cost Routing, the application is smart enough to route those calls through the PBX—automatically, without me having to do anything—I just dial the number—and the cost of that call drops to about $2—a 15x reduction in cost.”
Least-Cost Routing isn’t that much of a trick in North America, Roshan pointed out—due to most carriers’ unlimited nationwide long distance plans. “We just look for anything that is not a North American Numbering Plan number.”
In Europe—and elsewhere—it can be a lot more complicated, though. So Dynamic Routing employs a policy engine or rules database that is quite granular, based on location, based on time of day, based on calling party, based on a particular user, a group of users, or system-wide. “It’s very, very flexible.”
A nice usability feature—Dual Persona—also makes its debut with this release of the Agito application. Dual Persona allows the mobile phone to function both as a personal phone and a business phone—again, transparently to the user.
“My wife doesn’t call me on my desk phone; she calls my mobile,” Roshan said. “But my business associates call me on my enterprise number. So I need to be able to support both types of calls, and make sure that when business associates call, that goes to enterprise voicemail, but when friends and family call me, those go to my personal voicemail.”
Dual Persona also displays the appropriate Caller ID
To set up Dual Persona, a user simply marks personal contacts—friends, family, anyone whose calls would be inappropriate to route over the corporate phone network—as “Personal.” The Mobility Router then sorts it all out on the back end.
“Every time I dial that number it always goes out over the carrier network,” Roshan explained. “On incoming calls, it comes directly over the cellular network, and we know not to intercept it to corporate voicemail.”
The last piece of big news with the new release is expanded hardware compatibility. Agito now claims compatibility with about 35 mobile phones and smartphones—more than any other F/MC provider, the company says.
For the North American market, that breaks down to 13 models of E- and N-series Nokia dual-mode phones and 15 Windows Mobile device from a number of providers and carriers. In Europe the selection of Nokia phones is a bit broader.
Support for the Apple iPhone and for RIM’s BlackBerry, though not part of this release, will be coming soon, according to Roshan.
Also expanded is Agito’s integration with popular PBX product lines. Along with PBXs from Cisco, Nortel, Avaya, Microsoft OCS, RoamAnywhere now works seamlessly with products from ShoreTel and Mitel—as well as open-source Asterisk.
“It’s native integration; no tampering with the PBX,” Roshan stressed.