Nortel bolsters wireless VOIP offering for enterprise

Nortel has introduced full IEEE 802.11-based QoS standards to its wireless LAN software

Nortel has updated its wireless LAN software and introduced a new mobile handset to extend its wireless VOIP offerings for the enterprise.

The changes introduce on Nortel's WLAN switches and access points the full IEEE 802.11-based QoS standards, which are needed to ensure high quality voice calls over a WLAN infrastructure. The new handset is the first that can run on any WLAN infrastructure.

In the past, Nortel has relied for QoS on the Wi-Fi Multimedia specification, which implements only the traffic priority classifications of the 802.11e standard, and on Spectralink's Spectralink Voice Prioritization (SVP) protocol to improve voice quality. But SVP is a proprietary protocol that runs only on VOIP handsets. Now, Nortel has added the two remaining 802.11e elements to its infrastructure so it can work with any 802.11e-enabled client making VOIP calls, including PDAs and laptops.

One new element is a power-save feature that lets a VOIP handset sleep when it's not active, conserving battery power. Another is call admission control, which enables an access point to monitor and manage a VOIP call to optimize its quality as other clients come and go on that same access point.

These changes are being incorporated in a new software release this week for the Nortel WLAN 2300 system of WLAN controllers and companion thin access points.

The new WLAN Handset 6100 is the first Nortel wireless VOIP phone with a radio that can support 802.11b, 11g or 11a connections. In the past, the handsets ran only on 802.11b WLANs. Also new is support in the handset for Wi-Fi Multimedia prioritization. In the past the phones supported only the Spectralink protocol.

The 6100 will be available in the second quarter, in two models: intermediate and professional. The latter will add an array of features such as 'push-to-talk' which lets the phones act like walkie-talkies, and an extended battery option. Pricing has not yet been set.

Nortel also announced two reseller agreements with wireless product companies. Nortel will now sell the real-time location product line from Ekahau. Ekahau's Wi-Fi radio tags attach to portable or moveable equipment, associate with existing WLAN access points, and pass data to a server which calculates and displays the location of the equipment.

The second deal is with AirDefense. Nortel will now offer that company's wireless intrusion detection/prevention system. Nortel developers created new code to link the AirDefense software tightly into the network management platform for the Nortel WLAN 2300 line. The 2300 access points can switch between handling standard WLAN traffic and acting as radio frequency sensors to monitor the airwaves, and AirDefense alerts or data can be passed directly to the 2300 management application.

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