Cisco and Nokia have announced new dual-mode smartphones that can operate on a Cisco enterprise VoIP infrastructure and a public GSM network.
The dual-mode Nokia E61i and E65 smartphones contain 802.11g and GSM radios, as well as software which senses the strongest network signal available and places calls accordingly. The Nokia handsets also feature software enabling them to operate as a corporate phone extension off Cisco CallManager IP PBX and messaging infrastructure.
Cisco kicked off its partnership with Nokia last year, when it announced compatibility between Cisco's Unified CallManager 5.0 system and Nokia E60, E61 and E70 smartphones. This interoperability allows a Nokia phone to receive VoIP calls switched via a Cisco IP PBX, the same as a wired desktop IP phone, or a Cisco 802.11-based handset.
The race to link cellphones with corporate VoIP systems has heated up recently among IP PBX makers. Avaya bet $US15 million on Traverse Networks, a maker of fixed-mobile convergence software for cellphones, last November. The month before, Cisco bought Orative, which makes similar software, for $US31 million.
While Nortel has remained quiet to date, industry observers claim a tighter connection between Nortel's corporate VoIP technology and Microsoft's smartphone/handheld software is a reasonable expectation, given the two companies' four-year product development, sales and support partnership, Innovative Technology Alliance.
Some say an enterprise with a large base of cellphone users can cut costs by allowing employees to make calls more cheaply over a corporate VoIP-enabled Wi-Fi network, Wi-Fi hot spot or public wireless network. Tying mobiles closely to a corporate VoIP network can also provide the convenience of a single phone number for employees. In addition, administrators could gain more centralised control over corporate data.