VoIP Goes Wireless

Wireless Fidelity, abbreviated WiFi, is a term used when describing the standards that apply to wireless LANs. Also referred to as the IEEE 802.11 standard, it is often discussed in relation to devices that connect to the Internet while allowing their users to stay mobile. Connectivity can be achieved with the help of wireless network interface cards, which can be either built-in or purchased and added to the system.

The Internet is a medium that enables many forms of communication, including the recent VoIP technology, which relies on the transmission of voice in the form of packets over the Internet – in other words, Internet telephony. It was therefore to be expected that VoIP developers should direct their attention towards the advantages offered by wireless Internet connections.

The new technological marriage is called Voice over Wireless Fidelity, abbreviated as VoWiFi. The practical implementation of it makes it possible for VoIP phones to connect to the Internt through a wireless access point – also known as a wireless hotspot. The advantages are obvious: wireless connectivity enables people to use their VoIP phone almost in the same way as a mobile phone – only almost, because cellular telephony networks have been around for some time now and cover wider areas than those where wireless Internet access is available. There are, however, some disadvantages as well, mainly in connection with data security. Since a user can easily connect their laptop to someone else’s hotspot, it is evident that serious caution is needed in designing wireless LANs, to make sure the hotspots do not endanger the privacy of the data on the network. Protecting your computer with a password may work against less savvy hackers, but you’ll often need to take more complex steps. It is useful to know that the typical hotspot range is of about 90 metres.

Still, due to VoIP’s well known cost-efficiency, using the technology over wireless networks is likely to become more and more popular. Some carriers have already started to prepare themselves for the times when VoWiFi will attract enough users to compete with cellular telephony. The first dual phones, combining cellular and WiFi technology, are already here. They can switch to WiFi when they are in the area of a hotspot, and back to cellular mode when they leave that area. Connectivity is not lost, so the switching can take place even during a phone conversation without any of the persons noticing anything. These phones are an especially attractive choice when travelling abroad, as there are no roaming charges in the case of VoIP.

The lower costs of calling via the Internet are likely to stimulate the search for solutions to these issues, so we can predict that VoWiFi is going to become the new standard in mobile telephony at some future moment. Major VoIP providers such as Vonage, for example, are already taking steps in this direction. There are currently WiFi handsets available for around $200 or less, which give you all the much appreciated amenities of VoIP phones – features such as call forwarding and transfer or call waiting.

Other phone companies have not yet branched out into VoWiFi and sometimes try to defend their current position by means of lawsuits, accusing VoWiFi providers of infringing some regulation or another. Still, it is unlikely that such inconveniences will hinder the evolution process that VoWiFi has already started.

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