BridgePort Networks Announces VoIP Developments

This week, BridgePort Networks made two announcements regarding the increasing functionality of its voice over IP (VoIP) offerings as they transition towards using the IP Multimedia Subsystem, or IMS, to facilitate seamless handover of calls between cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

Sanjay Jhawar, BridgePort’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, says the company has always differed from the UMA view of convergence in that it uses a SIP-based approach—particularly, he says, since SIP is key to IMS. “We’ve been very active in the standards bodies that have been looking at convergence services that use IMS,” he says.

And now that both 3GPP and 3GPP2 have finalized technical requirements for IMS-based handoff between cellular and Wi-Fi networks, Jhawar says, all that remains is for the specification itself to be drafted and ratified. “There’s enough information on the technical requirements to go ahead and begin building products—we’ve been waiting for this moment,” he says.

As a result, BridgePort announced plans this week to transition from its NomadicONE Network Convergence Gateway to the NomadicONE IMS Convergence Server or ICS, which will enable seamless cellular/Wi-Fi handoffs, based on 3GPP and 3GPP2 requirements.

Converged applications
Jhawar says the simplest application for the NomadicONE ICS would be the ability to start a call using a dual-mode phone on, say, a cellular network—then walk through your front door at home and have that call handed off seamlessly to your home Wi-Fi network. “For that to occur, there’s a lot of orchestration needed between the handset, the cellular infrastructure, and the broadband voice over IP infrastructure,” he says.

Still, the server can do a lot more than just that simple handoff. A key issue for service providers, Jhawar says, is mobile IP Centrex—providing access to the same phone number and the same services over both your mobile phone and the hosted IP telephony system in your office. “Our application server and IMS bridges those two domains,” he says.

Not only can the NomadicONE ICS provide access to IP Centrex services over your mobile phone, Jhawar says, the reverse is also true; your cellular phone’s services can be made available at your desk, whether you’re using a single multi-mode phone or multiple devices. “Our application server will do those kinds of things in partnership with a number of different IP Centrex vendors,” he says.

Similarly, Jhawar says, NomadicONE ICS can work with the Microsoft Live Communications Server to let calls reach you wherever you are, with all of Microsoft’s functionality. “A lot of very interesting scenarios that are really positive for the enterprise—in cost management, productivity and collaboration—become possible,” he says.

Two related white papers are available for download as PDF files from BridgePort’s Web site, discussing the IMS requirements for handover between cellular and Wi-Fi networks and the challenges of cost-effective evolution to IMS.

A soft client
Also this week, BridgePort announced the availability of SoftMOBILE, a back-end solution that combines the NomadicONE Network Convergence Gateway with a standard mobile phone and a soft client to enable a broad range of voice and messaging solutions. “It’s a fast-to-market solution for convergence that doesn’t require a new kind of phone that has Wi-Fi and cellular in it,” Jhawar says.

The idea, Jhawar says, is to give mobile operators a way to compete with services like Skype, with the advantage of allowing users to receive VoIP calls at their mobile number. “It’s a service that mobile operators would launch under their own brand, using their existing mobile phone numbers, that offers the soft client user experience combined with the mobile identity,” he says.

Using the service, Jhawar says, an outgoing call from the desktop client would look like it came from the user’s mobile phone number, making it a good value add for mobile operators. “We envisage that service providers will launch that as some kind of flat rate service, so that for five or ten dollars a month extra, you’d get unlimited calls to and from your mobile number using your soft client,” he says.

For business travelers, Jhawar says, that could be a very attractive proposition. “If you happen to be roaming in Europe, then instead of paying a dollar a minute to make or receive calls, you can just pay your hotel ten bucks for the day for broadband—and then you’re essentially making your calls from your mobile phone as part of that flat rate and not paying extra,” he says.

Starting in the first half of 2006, Jhawar says, a wide range of companies are planning to release commercial offerings based on these solutions, including mobile operators, broadband providers, ISPs and MVNOs in Asia, North America and Europe. “We’re pretty excited about our prospects for ’06,” he says.

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