Networking

Netopia pushes Wi-Fi cordless phones

The broadband equipment maker announces a program that will make it easier for IP phone makers to develop Wi-Fi enabled cordless phones.

Broadband equipment maker Netopia on Friday announced a program designed to spur manufacturers to develop more Wi-Fi cordless phones.

The company's certification program is meant to aid any Wi-Fi cordless phone manufacturer or developer that uses the 802.11b or 802.11g Wi-Fi standards. The program ensures Wi-Fi cordless phone interoperability through Netopia's 3-D Reach wireless digital subscriber line and broadband gateways.


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Wi-Fi and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) are two of the hottest communication technologies around. Many residential consumers have already begun networking their homes with wireless equipment based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' 802.11 standards. Large telecommunication providers have started deploying wireless hot spots in hotels, airports and restaurants throughout the world. This allows users of Wi-Fi enabled PDAs (personal digital assistants) or laptops to connect to the Internet wirelessly.

VoIP phone calling that uses the Internet rather than traditional phone networks also is starting to gain traction in both the business and residential market. Many companies have started launching their own VoIP solutions to save on long-distance charges and offer more advanced applications, such as unified messaging for using one number on a variety of phones and phone-to-PC communications technology.

Service providers, including 8x8, VoicePulse and Vonage, are offering VoIP to residential customers so that people can use their broadband connections to make cheap phone calls over the Internet. Larger carriers, such as AT&T, Bell Canada and Time Warner Cable, also have announced plans to offer residential VoIP.

Cordless Wi-Fi phones are a natural extension to these technologies. These phones, made by manufacturers such as Cisco Systems, provide consumers with the same features and functionality offered in wireline IP phones. They also will allow people to take their phones with them so that they can make calls when wandering in and out of Wi-Fi hot spots, just as they would using their laptop computers.


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Currently, the number of public Wi-Fi hot spots and access points around the globe is relatively low, but the number is growing. For example, MCI recently announced plans to add more hot spots to its network. Some experts predict that cordless Wi-Fi phones could eventually replace cellular phones. Consumers can surf the Net now with 3G (third generation) cellular technology, but critics point out that throughput is slow and services are expensive.

Using the 802.11b and 802.11g standards, wireless devices can transmit data up to 11 megabits per second. This is almost 10 times faster than 3G cellular technology. What's more, Internet calling has already proven to be much cheaper than traditional circuit-based technology.

Netopia has established distribution relationships with leading carriers and broadband service providers including BellSouth, Covad Communications, EarthLink, France Telecom, SBC Communications, Swisscom, Telecom Italia and Verizon Communications.