Skilling up for wireless voice

Skilling up for wireless voice

Avaya Asia-Pacific senior product manager, unified communications and emerging technologies division, James Sia, said resellers can brush up on a number of skills in order to push the wireless telephony concept to the corporate world.

Some quick tips: use a virtual location area network (VLAN); monitor and track traffic patterns; lock down servers; use multiple layers of encryption; build in redundancy; use a firewall; update and patch regularly; and keep devices and networks "hidden" from the Internet. "Have a good understanding of Wi-Fi data knowledge, understand the different VLANs, and how to prioritise a voice packet," Sia said. "Train up on security, which is always an issue. It's not just about what base station to put in, but also having a whole conversation about security and how you'll authenticate and encrypt the voice packet."

Lan1 technical director, John Hamill, said the additional set-up required for wireless integration was offering partners the chance to deliver more services.

"There's also an opportunity here for putting in not just one or two access points, but also implementing a large wireless mesh network, prioritising the voice and expanding the Wi-Fi range," he said. 3Com product marketing director, Matt Walmsley, said its key differentiation point was that resellers could overlay its wireless infrastructure without having to change or reconfigure the underlying wired network.

"It's all in how our wireless system controls our access points. We can map into the VLAN architecture, seamlessly migrating what was already done. This offers ease of deployment, and fewer headaches," he said.

Resellers would need a mix of skills in Wi-Fi, as well as understand centralised wireless control.

"Skill up and specialise," Walmsley urged partners. "When selling the Wi-Fi infrastructure, partners can upsell and chat about Power over Ethernet (PoE), and unified switches," which can converge wired and wireless networking functionality.

"It's rare to come into an enterprise and only discuss one thing like the phones."

Walmsley advised resellers to offer total networking solutions with a mix of wired and wireless infrastructure that supported a myriad of applications including voice.

"Mobility isn't just for large enterprise. SMBs want wireless switching and a voice over Wi-Fi experience," he said. "Help a customer do the IP telephony part first, and then add the voice over Wi-Fi component. It's the next logical step."

And most importantly, remember the human element, Walmsley said. "Do a gradual rollout, a phased approach. It may be too much for some employees to get the dial tone/voicemail/calls/fax/inbox and all bits and pieces over the Wi-Fi phone," he said. "As much as this is cool and sexy stuff, make sure users can adapt to it."

Developing a plan

Doing a wireless audit and design service is probably the most important step when dealing with SMBs, Telarus security expert, Fergus Fitzwater, said. His company was looking for partners to help sell its business service, which examined the best performance for wireless networks.

"VoIP is becoming more popular, and Wi-Fi is also heating up, so you put the two together and things are jumping," he said.

Telarus' engineers use audit software to map out what wireless coverage looks like visually and determine what objects, such as external brick walls or furniture, are potentially weakening the wireless signal. The Spectrum analyser software also looked for other sources of interference such as DECT phones, Bluetooth devices and microwaves, Fitzwater said.

"Microwave ovens are noisy and interfere most with wireless networks, resulting in poor performance," he said. "We recommend putting them in shielded rooms."

There's a big opportunity for partners to determine company requirements. "Determine if there are heavy users of bandwidth. If there's a requirement for time sensitive applications like voice over Wi-Fi, understand and apply quality of service. Make sure the equipment is QoS capable or 802.11," he said.

The industry is currently waiting for the ratification of 802.11e, which appropriately classifies traffic into eight different levels and puts voice and streaming video at the top to avoid latency. This ensures there's no voice breakup or jitter. In the meantime, most providers have adopted the wireless multimedia certification as a cut-down version of the standard.

"Partners are often tied to certain brands of hardware, so they need to ensure they choose the right equipment, and that it's also compliant," Fitzwater said. "It needs to offer a seamless handover from one access point to the next."

Consumer grade equipment didn't cut it, he said. "Businesses need a fast handover and a seamless experience," Fitzwater said. Businesses also need help avoiding the security pitfalls associated with voice over Wi-Fi.

"Security requirements are interesting in VoIP over Wi-Fi. A lot of handsets don't offer good security, so many companies can't justify it," he claimed.

However, Fitzwater pointed out handset security was improving. "WEP was designed by engineers and not cryptographers and so it was fl awed. It is sufficient for privacy, but can't capture packets and recreate," he said. "The industry is moving towards WPA, and WPA2 802.11i advanced encryption standard. It offers much stronger authentication of devices joining the network."

Aruba country manager, Dave Humphries, said RF management and managing QoS was the biggest hurdle to overcome.

"Because we have an unlicensed spectrum, the RF needs to be adaptable. If it's not, then voice is a big problem," he said.

Automated RF management was important as it calculated and configured the optimum RF model, taking into account cell-to-cell interference, Humphries said.

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