The advent of wireless broadband has put a new twist on peoples mobility and communications. Wireless broadband connections can take many different forms. From an extension of conventional wired networks in your home or office, to wireless coverage of entire metropolitan areas, to the proliferation of WiFi hotspots all over the world, the Internet truly makes the world a global place.
Wireless Broadband and IP Telephony
Companies like Clearwire and Mobilepro Corp are connecting college campuses, even whole cities to the Internet wirelessly. Using fixed point to point, point to multipoint, and non-line-of-site (NLOS) technologies, these companies can eventually cover areas of dense population that will rival the cellular networks.
Worldwide, even in remote locations, WiFi hotspots only need a little electricity and a satellite uplink to connect to the world.
Wireless broadband and IP telephony have the most potential in the small business and traveling community. A small business with branch offices spread around the country (or the world for that matter) could save considerably on their telecommunication expenses utilizing VoIP. As would the traveling salesperson staying at a far away hotel, more and more of which have their own wireless networks. Just pick a provider, find a hotspot and watch your phone bill drop.
IP telephony over wireless broadband is emerging as a viable alternative to the public switched telephone network (PSTN), and is even encroaching on the cellular communications industry. Whereas the big cellular networks put in place by companies like Sprint and Verizon have done a good job blanketing north America, and Europe, the cost to the consumer can be cut even more by utilizing the Internet to transport voice.
VoIP and the Cellular Networks
IP telephony is a disruptive technology, meaning that it has the potential to turn an existing market upside down. Imagine how the telcos felt when a long distance call for which they used to charge a dollar a minute can now be made for pennies. Needless to say, the babyb bells and mobile phone companies will resist this change, but as the technology evolves, adoption seems inevitable.
Just as the sound quality on cellular networks are generally less than land lines, massive adoption of mobile phones show that people are willing to tolerate loss of quality for convenience. Quality of sound over an IP connection can be anywhere from a dropped call to cell phone quality, to the equivalent of a land line connection, depending on network utilization.
The advantages of VoIP over conventional telephony are becoming clearer, but what would be the advantages of IP telephony over cellular phones? While both cell phone companies and the pure-play VoIP providers have monthly plans, internet phone companies do not charge more for prime time, and the monthly service charges are significantly less. Most mobile phone companies offer free nationwide long distance in the U.S., whereas Vonage, for example offers free calls throughout the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and Europe.
International rates with VoIP are the lowest to be had, to some countries as low as 2-3 cents a minute for a call to a PSTN number. Calls to cell phones however, are charged at a higher rate.
WiFi Cell Phones
Essential to the widespread implementation of wireless VoIP is, of course, the hardware, the phone itself. While many pure play Internet phone companies have had WiFi telephones for a while, the ideal solution would be a cell phone that goes both ways. Companies like Truphone have furthered the cause by developing an Open Source application based on the widely accepted session initiation protocol (SIP), which allows a transition from the Internet to the PSTN.
Nokia, a leading manufacturer of cell phones, has developed a line of smart phones starting with its E60 series that is dual band and can switch between cellular and WiFi networks. Their latest innovation, the N80, combines all the latest technology and truly is a smart phone. These phones will automatically switch back and forth while roaming between cellular and WiFi networks, purportedly without dropping the call.
IP telephony over wireless networks is a technology just out of its infancy, and is yet to become wide spread. The cost effectiveness of routing voice packets over the internet as opposed to land lines, or even cellular networks, cannot be denied. But dont expect the telcos or the cellular phone companies to embrace this technology wholeheartedly until they can figure out a way to make a profit