Avaya rolls out PDA-based VoIP products

Avaya Inc., the Basking Ridge, N.J.-based spinoff of Lucent Technologies Inc., released a set of new VOIP (voice over IP) products at the CommunicAsia 2001 show in Singapore on Tuesday.

The products are part of Avaya's strategy to move its Enterprise Class IP Solutions (ECLIPS) product line toward higher availability and higher capacity, according to Jim Ferenc, vice president of research and development for Avaya's enterprise communications group.

One firmware solution will let customers control their IP phones using PDAs with infrared ports. According to Avaya, the firmware allows users to place calls from their PDA address book databases as well as control their phone's conference, transfer, and hold functions remotely. The Avaya solution also runs on Palm PDAs.

The solution will be offered as a free upgrade to U.S. customers in July. Also starting in July, new Avaya IP phones will ship with the firmware preloaded.

Another new solution will deliver streaming text from the Internet over LCDs on IP phones. When Avaya releases the product in early 2002, users will be able to access and display WML (Wireless Markup Language) content.

Another announcement was Avaya's partnership with Boulder, Colo.-based wireless telephony firm SpectraLink, in which Avaya will deliver SpectraLink's NetLink Wireless Telephone System (WTS) to its customers.

WTS is a wireless telephony solution that operates more than 802.11b-based wireless LANs. According to an Avaya spokesperson, the partnership will give SpectraLink access to Avaya's distribution network, while letting Avaya offer enhanced features (such as conference calling, call forwarding and transferring, and caller ID) to its customers.

Some observers doubt that VOIP technology offers enough of a cost savings advantage to attract enterprises, except in limited intercompany settings. But Ferenc said that VOIP technologies are gaining mainstream adoption.

"What was [once] experimental -- something for the laboratory -- just a year ago [is now] being rolled out successfully," Ferenc said. "[Enterprises] are now looking for large-scale solutions."

But Ferenc also noted that "you need a fairly robust IP network" for VOIP to make business sense, because the quality of service that users have come to expect from their telephones can only be guaranteed on networks with high availability. As capital spending freezes up, fewer companies have the resources to invest in enhanced LANs and WANs, according to Ferenc.

"The payoff time has to be much shorter now than it was six to 12 months ago to justify a large-scale move," Ferenc said.

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