Thus Challenge Business Voice over WiFi (VoFi)

A number of announcements from some of the world’s leading equipment vendors and WiFi service providers have highlighted a concerted push by the industry to make 2007 the year of VoFi. The WiFi Alliance announced that nearly 100 WiFi handsets had been certified since 2004, providing further evidence that VoFi is emerging as a real alternative to mobile and VoIP over fixed line broadband.

Businesses may be attracted to the technology for a number of reasons, not least the cost benefits that can be enjoyed through employing a wireless VoIP product instead of traditional GSM calls. Businesses must, however, remember that despite the ‘buzz’ being generated, the technology is still at a relatively early phase of its development. As with any communications technology it is important for businesses to buy only from respected and established vendors and equipment providers to ensure that quality and utility are optimised.

There have traditionally been some limitations associated with VoFi that are only now beginning to be overcome. Foremost among these is its lack of mobility. Many pure VoFi handsets do not have a web interface, meaning that they are unusable at most public WiFi hotspots where it is necessary to enter in payment details before being allowed to access the Internet – impossible without such an interface.

Commented Mark Charlesworth, head of messaging, mobility and applications at THUS: “The overall user experience with VoFi phones has always been questionable. The more applications made available on the handsets the more electricity they require. VoFi handsets are notorious consumers of power and their battery life is much shorter than handsets launched for other specifications – a major practical drawback to using them for business applications. It is apparent that equipment vendors are doing much to improve the quality of VoFi handsets as well as producing viable user interfaces, essential if the phones are to be used in public hot-spots. We can anticipate much more efficient and user-friendly handsets in the future, which can only encourage the growth of this technology.

“The quality of the actual call has also been a consideration with WiFi access. This is because the VoFi phone is sharing the available bandwidth with all other WiFi traffic. To avoid this businesses must ensure they source their WiFi solutions from credible and established providers. By so doing, businesses will be provided with a WiFI access with a low contention ratio and packet prioritisation to ensure that voice quality is assured. With improved handsets, and a reliable WiFi connection, there is no reason VoFi cannot find a place as a useful business tool.”

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