Wireless Applications

12 min read

Andy Penn of Siemens

Wireless Applications

Business is increasingly embracing wireless applications for voice and data communications. Comms Business Magazine talks to some of the players and examines three large scale implementations.

Modern wireless communications have transformed the ways in which many offices are run today. Whether you are looking at wireless for PC networks or wireless for telephony the considerations are similar: security of information, quality and speed of connection. The productivity gains can be immense for even the smallest of organisation.

Over the last four or five years the telecommunications industry has gone through major changes driven by convergence and IP. This market shift has provided many resellers and integrators with opportunities to expand their businesses into new business communications applications. During the later part of 2005 and 2006 a convergence opportunity will emerge in the European market place. We are beginning to see the real convergence of fixed and mobile communications.

This new market will bring new players in to the arena and for resellers there will be new opportunities for selling. Just as new vendors will seek to enter the market so will existing established suppliers expand their portfolios to address these new opportunities, as Roger Jones, Business Development Director, Strategy & Technology at Avaya explains.

“Mobile phones have been around for years, but they have never fully meshed with fixed telephony. Research in Motion and good technology has driven the market of mobile email, which by definition expands email from being a desktop tool to a fully mobile tool.

Now many organisations such as Avaya and Nokia are connecting mobile handsets to the converged PBX infrastructure being deployed in many organisations. This convergence of high function fixed telephony and the freedom of mobile phones, provides organisations with enhanced functionality and reach ability for their highly mobile workforce. Simple features such as one number, one message box all with a single point of administration and accounting can bring major benefits to any organisation.”

This development means that additional PBX features such as conference, transfer and hold can be used on a range of mobile handsets on any cellular network. Combined with mobile email you now have all the major Enterprise communications functions in the palm of your hand. Work location becomes less and less important, minimising travel and enhancing productivity.

Jones sees the only major barrier to increased usage is the cellular network tariffs. “Many integrators already deal in the provision of mobile phone services to users, this is a competitive business. Adding the value of PBX functionality onto these services is another potential business opportunity. The final solution is to remove those cellular charges entirely. This is where the dual mode, GSM/WiFi handsets will play a major role. When a user is on a WiFi network the calls and data will be routed over WiFi to bypass the mobile operators.”

Initially this looks like the ultimate solution for all organisations. However care needs to be taken in the cost and complexity of providing a voice ready WiFi infrastructure that covers all parts of your building, including stairwells. Some organisations may see the cost associated with a WiFi infrastructure outweighs the cost savings made on the cellular call charges.

Peter Johnson at distributor Icon has a similar viewpoint based upon their relationship with Kirk products. “One of the many products in the Kirk telecom development pipeline is a WLAN handset that will use existing wireless LAN networks.”


One network for voice and data

Johnson continues, “With more organizations expanding from LAN to WLAN, and Wi-Fi as a mainstream technology, wireless network data transfer is now commonplace. Utilising these networks for voice communication has previously been held back by technological problems such as latency, compatibility, standardisation and cost. Kirk telecom is developing a WLAN handset to overcome these difficulties by offering a WLAN handset with quality of service, battery life and usability comparable to other advanced Kirk handsets, making VoWLAN an accessible and high-quality voice solution. The growing demand for wireless networks will increasingly be characterised by converged WLAN data and voice applications.”


Facing Issues

Siemens Communications has long been in Wireless Voice with its technologies in DECT. With the coming of WLAN and the opportunity for converged voice and data in the wireless space, new challenges have arisen.

Andrew Penn, Senior Product Manager, “ Siemens appreciated these challenges and sought to find a WLAN technology that could deliver against the key criteria required for true converged wireless. We took a major step towards achieving this with the acquisition of Chantry Networks from the US back in January. Since then the company has been integrated into Siemens HiPath range and further developed to overcome many of the WLAN issues.

Siemens see these issues as being;

•  How do you allow for devices to roam across your network from access point to access point without loss of    connection?

•  How do you maintain quality of service over a wireless network?

•  How do you secure a wireless network?

Ultimately all these challenges are being dealt with by industry standards and will eventually all be ratified by IEEE. Siemens is actively engaged in all the ratification boards and will ensure that all its WLAN products will adopt the ratified standard.

Penn says that even with these standards there will still be challenges for customers and resellers. “Radio is not an easy technology to understand, deploy or manage - it isn't restricted by your building, so RF can leak outside unlike your fixed network, plus it is more susceptible to interference from electricity, magnetism & other RF usage. Therefore, finding a trusted vendor and reseller who understands these challenges can be hard. Although some of the new RF surveying tools are an improvement over earlier versions, problems can still arise, and this will increase with WLAN deployments. So sales of WLAN are often more margin rich if you can show value to your client and help sales engage in better service opportunities over the long term.”



Key applications will be the real sales driver with each customer and will include such items as VoWLAN (which will develop rapidly as handsets that offer roaming and switching into mobile networks become more prevalent next year), WLAN applications deployment (such as putting stock systems in the hands of warehouse staff in the warehouse),  and of course Hotspot deployments (though don't expect to see this as a major revenue income, more as a facility for visiting customers, partners, contractors etc.)


Building the Sale

With an eye towards helping resellers maximise their sale potential from a range of products and service applications, Bernie Dodwell of Westcon says that a wireless IP comms solution requires a multi-discipline approach to deliver a solution for all aspects of the customer requirements. “For example, handset (dual IP/DECT??), VPN wireless firewall and access points, QoS and bandwidth management for business critical application, call management/reporting/auditing/billing tools, UPS, Power over Ethernet etc. in addition to the voice gateway and/or servers.”

He goes on to say that the VAR needs to ask the customer key questions covering the above topics which will demonstrate their understanding of the needs, potentially increase the value of the deal and position them as the only supplier who can meet the requirements. “Then they need to find a supplier of the technologies which is where Westcon fit in as the only distributor in this market who can supply all the above from a single source.

Dodwell concludes that the user will be looking for investment protection in what they buy not only at the telephony end (e.g. ability to support SIP) but also ongoing support for the evolving wireless standards (Super-G, 8011.a/g/xyz etc.). “The VAR who understands all these issues and offers added value services in installation and maintenance is in a far stronger competitive position than the VAR offering bits of the total requirement - unless of course the user wants to project manage the acquisition and installation on their own!”

Brent Nixon, Director of Enterprise Wireless Product Management at 3Com comments that the good news for resellers is that many enterprises now recognise that they need to support mobile devices and enhanced mobility within, and beyond, their premises. “Enterprises in healthcare, government, education, and high-technology industries with mobile workers are proactively deploying managed wireless enterprise infrastructures comprising wireless access points and wireless switching that permit roaming. While IP-based mobility has been enjoying significant growth, resellers will also notice that enterprises are also deploying IP-based convergence applications at an accelerated pace. Unified messaging, conferencing, and instant messaging have all enjoyed significant growth, as have convergence services such as presence and standards-based end-user clients such as IP phones. These are presenting many exciting new opportunities for resellers in the UK.”


Case Study:


Derry City Council  
Reseller Telindus has supplied a wireless solution for Derry, the second largest urban centre in Northern Ireland. The Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI) were seeking ‘Flagship' projects that could raise awareness of broadband and encourage adoption by others through demonstrating success and innovation. Derry City Council (DCC) was one of nineteen organisations that the DETI contacted to see if they could help.
 Trapeze Networks MX-400

Having spoken to the University of Ulster (UU) and the North West Institute of Further and Higher Education the Council turned to Telindus for advice.

A joint proposal was then submitted using the Telindus Secure Mobility Solution that would provide a wireless network based on a Trapeze Networks platform. This would allow students and lecturers to benefit from an improved learning environment both in and out of the classroom; and which would also enable tourists to access historic and cultural information via GPS/WLAN enabled PDAs.

The Telindus solution includes three Trapeze MX-400 Mobility Exchange Switches, 80 x MP352 Mobility Points, 3 x Ringmaster Tool and 3 x Ringmaster Management software. The solution is being implemented by Telindus, who are also providing ongoing training and support.

Due to the geographical proximity of DCC, UU and NWIFHE, the wireless infrastructure is providing a seamless network across the whole area, consisting of three strands – Wireless Campus, Wireless Council and Wireless Walls.


Wireless Campus

Covering a large area of UU's Magee Campus and the NWIFHE campuses, the wireless network includes classrooms, meeting rooms, library areas, student union areas and canteens. Students have more flexible access to computing and educational resources, email and the Internet. SMART classrooms are replacing the existing static seating with a more dynamic and interactive multi-media learning environment where students can exchange, highlight and display information on SMART boards. Currently, engineering students additionally have wireless enabled tablet PCs, providing a wider range of services such as an interactive transfer of information. A wireless Technology Centre is also providing solid technical engineering and computing expertise to application developers and users of wireless technology.

Harry Young, Network Manager at the University of Ulster said: “The prospect of a state-of-the-art wireless network and SMART classroom model on the Magee and NWIFHE campuses is very exciting as it will make the teaching and learning experience far more interactive and dynamic. We can't wait to see the solution put into practice for the new term in October 2005.”


Wireless Council

Wireless connectivity has been given to city councillors and local government officers through the Wireless Council. This is being built and developed using existing e-government services from both the Council Offices and the Council Chamber. An Electronic Document and Record Management System (EDRMS) is also being installed within DCC, which will serve as a model for the other 25 local authorities in Northern Ireland.


Walled City Area

A wireless network within Derry City will give visitors to the area an entirely new experience. Tourists will be able to rent wireless-enabled PDAs containing information about historical and cultural information, as well as other local information such as where to eat, and shopping guides.

“We chose to work with Telindus because it has an excellent track-record in implementing best-of-breed technology solutions. The Trapeze Mobility System fits perfectly with our needs – it's reliable, secure and easy to manage,” said Young.

Dr Trevor Forsythe from the DETI said, “This project came about as a result of a call made by the DETI under the Northern Ireland Broadband Flagship Initiative under the EU Building Sustainable Prosperity Programme. The intention of the Department was to encourage local and international organisations to showcase applications, services and/or content in the area of broadband. Nineteen proposals were made and the one submitted by UU, Derry City Council and NWIFHE was selected.”


Case Study


Nursing Homes

Aruba Networks has announced that its next-generation mobility system has been selected to create a groundbreaking health and social care network for Hampshire County Council (HCC).

Aruba's centralised wireless LAN (WLAN) technology will be used to enable mobile working within ten new nursing homes, currently being built around the county. HCC is the first local authority in the UK to build and run its own network of nursing homes, with the Aruba installation being part of the £60 million project.

HCC has initiated this project to meet the pressing need for more nursing home beds in Hampshire, and to reduce hospital waiting times and 'bed blocking'. To do this, HCC is building a state-of-the-art, system-wide Wi-Fi infrastructure for the planned ten new homes. Aruba's mobility system will give care staff secure wireless access to all networked resident care records.

Due to the sensitive nature of patient records, security is vital for HCC. Aruba's mobility system uniquely combines a variety of security mechanisms, such as RF security, encryption, user firewalling and client integrity, directly into a centralised platform. Consequently, Aruba's system gives HCC a centralised protection strategy that ensures any user attempting to connect to the network is authenticated before access is allowed.

"Aruba came closest to best meeting our need for a secure and user friendly centralised mobility network," said David Wigley, Senior IT consultant at HCC. "The great benefit to our staff will be having paperless access to the nursing care system, whether in the office or at a resident's bedside. In addition, there are also real gains from having a centralised electronic records system, rather than numerous paper held records."

The installation will include ten Aruba 800 mobility controllers and more than 100 thin access points (APs) to ensure all homes can easily have secure access to the wireless network throughout the facilities. Aruba's mobility controller system frees administrators from the costly and time-consuming process of managing individual APs, and is the only mobile security system in the industry with an integrated stateful firewall and hardware-based encryption.

"HCC is known for being one the most innovative and leading edge councils in terms of forward-looking technology investment," said Bob Vickers, UK General Manager for Aruba. "Healthcare providers have for a long time been looking for new ways to increase efficiency within the sector. A wireless network - particularly one that is centrally managed and inherently secure - provides health and social care workers with much greater flexibility in carrying out their duties. Care staff in Hampshire will have access to patient information from anywhere within the new nursing homes, without having the unnecessary worries of paper files and insecure data."

HCC and Hampshire NHS are working jointly on this innovative project, and three purpose built and designed nursing homes have so far opened in Fareham, Aldershot and Andover. A further three will open this summer, with the entire project expected to be completed by late 2006.



Wireless Market

Worldwide wireless LAN switch ports jumped 52% to 170,000, and revenue grew 55% to $80.8 million between the first and second quarters of 2005 and is expected to top $735 million by 2008, according to Infonetics Research's quarterly report, Wireless LAN Equipment.

The overall WLAN equipment market is holding steady, with worldwide revenue dipping 1% to $733 million between 1Q05 and 2Q05, and unit shipments increasing 7%. Annual revenue is expected to increase to $4.1 billion in 2008 as WLANs continue to gain traction across all regions.

“Product innovation continues amongst wireless LAN switches,” said Richard Webb, directing analyst at Infonetics Research. “Some vendors proclaim the security or RF capabilities of their product, while others focus on VoIP/QoS support or network management tools. Customers now have a genuine choice of products and architectures, a sign of a maturing segment.”

2Q05 Market Highlights

•  Cisco leads in overall WLAN equipment revenue share, following its fourth consecutive $100-    million-plus quarter

•  Cisco-Linksys is second, ahead of D-Link in third and NETGEAR in 4th

•  Access points account for 67% of WLAN equipment revenue, NICs for 16%, and WLAN infrastructure    products for 17%

•  SOHOs/consumers make up 43% of WLAN equipment revenue, declining from 51% in 1Q05; service    providers/enterprises make up 57%

•  North America accounts for 49% of WLAN equipment revenue, EMEA 26%, Asia Pacific 22%, CALA 3%


Case Study


Glasgow City Council

Glasgow has become the first city in Scotland to have a BT Wi-Fi enabled city centre, thanks to a joint initiative between Glasgow Council and BT. The installation of six BT Openzone hotspots will enable citizens to enjoy high-speed internet access via their wireless enabled laptops and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). The hotspots are in the central pedestrianised area of the city.

BT Multimedia Solutions is providing this connectivity within a radius of 50 to100 metres of key locations in the city's main shopping and business district.These include George Square, Queen Street and Sauchiehall Street. The Council is also considering extending wireless internet access to other areas of Glasgow.

This new technology will also be used to improve the flow of communication within the council, by eventually enabling Glasgow Council to connect with its street workers via hand-held devices and a virtual private network (VPN). The Council is already considering the use of this type of technology for Wi-Fi access in Libraries and Art Galleries, internet-based CCTV cameras, bus shelters, and traffic signals.

Bailie Alan Stewart, ICT Spokesperson for the Council, said: "Glasgow is a vibrant city with a bustling retail environment, renowned cultural offering and dynamic business centre. The Council is working with a range of public and private sector agencies in the City to develop a 'Wireless Glasgow Strategy' and action plan. By creating a Wi-Fi zone in the city centre, citizens and visitors to Glasgow can access the internet with greater freedom. The scheme heralds an exciting new era for the City, particularly the way in which the council communicates with its mobile workers. Council employees will soon be able to send and receive information via council-issued devices that link into the wireless network."

Julian Turner, head of Multimedia Solutions at BT, said: "The creation of a wireless network in Glasgow will improve connectivity for businesses in the selected area and serve to create a dynamic environment in which to shop and do business. Thanks to the existing BT payphones infrastructure around Glasgow city centre, BT was able to install hotspots in the best locations to ensure maximum WiFi coverage."



Many resellers will become more comfortable with wireless applications as the fixed/mobile convergence market progress with PBX vendors offering telephony solutions. Until then there is time to develop sales opportunities in other applications areas and build experience and expertise in a margin building service wrap that encompasses. As Westcon point out above, the VAR who understands all these issues and offers added value services in installation and maintenance is in a far stronger competitive position than the VAR offering bits of the total requirement.