Cisco Partners to Support Voice-Ready Wi-Fi

A growing number of market forces are promoting adoption of VoIP in the enterprise. One key driver, according to Cisco Systems’ director of wireless marketing, Ben Gibson, is growing interest in putting wireless LANs to work providing mobile telephony in the enterprise.

“We’ve seen over the past year a sharp increase in quantity as well as diversity of devices that have embedded Wi-Fi in them,” Gibson told, “combined with a lot of advancements or evolution with Wi-Fi technology to become more cellular in nature to be able to handle voice properly.”

This has prompted Cisco to adopt an end-to-end approach to voice-ready technology that goes from the client, through the Wi-Fi infrastructure, through the back-end infrastructure, and even into applications such as PBXs, like Cisco’s own CallManager.

Cisco yesterday announced both an upgrade to its Cisco Compatible Extensions (software—CCX for short—that makes it easy for devices to connect to Cisco-based WLAN infrastructure) and support from some big industry names: Intel, Nokia, and Research In Motion.

Long-time Cisco partner Intel, has built support for CCX into its Centrino chipsets for some time, and will now adopt the voice-ready version. Nokia, also an established Cisco partner, will collaborate specifically to bring the voice-ready wireless capability to Wi-Fi end devices. Research In Motion (RIM) announced the intention to build CCX version 4 capability into a future BlackBerry device with Wi-Fi support.

The changes to CCX center around two key features.

The first of these is call admission control. “Wi-Fi is a shared medium,” Ben Gibson pointed out. “When you deploy, you have to have the ability to cap the number of calls that can be supported on a particular AP [access point]. If another call comes in, it can’t be let on that AP.” Instead, the caller gets a busy signal. “You need to have embedded support, both in the client and in the Wi-Fi infrastructure to be able to do this properly,” Gibson told VoIPplanet.

The sister feature is load balancing among APs. “The idea is if the threshold has been crossed, the infrastructure can tell the client ‘Hey, go initiate your session with this adjacent AP that I know does have available bandwidth for this call,’ ” Gibson explained. This requires a centralized, controller-based architecture, such as that provided by Cisco’s Unified Wireless Network product line.

In that vein, Gibson pointed out that, “CCX is both a client implementation and an infrastructure implementation, and is required on both sides.” Cisco licenses only the CCX client piece, reserving the CCX infrastructure technology for it’s own Cisco Unified Wireless Network products.

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