Nortel makes call to WLANs

Nortel Networks on Monday unveiled handsets, access points, a switch and other gear designed to extend wireless LANs to support enterprise telephony.

The products add VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) capability to Nortel's WLAN 2200 portfolio, the company said in a statement. VOIP on a wireless LAN can allow employees to carry their work phone with them when they move around a facility, keeping their extensions and office dialing capabilities and avoiding a bill for voice minutes from a mobile operator. Nortel announced the products in conjunction with the VoiceCon enterprise voice show in Orlando, which opened Monday.

The company introduced two phones, the WLAN Handsets 2210 and 2211, both of which emulate Nortel's i2004 Internet Telephone, taking advantage of all the features of Nortel's call servers. The 2211 includes walkie-talkie capability. A newly introduced WLAN IP Telephony Manager 2245 manages the connections that the phones get on the wireless LAN, giving voice calls priority over other traffic to improve call quality.

Enterprises that want to add standardized third-party applications for specific uses of WLAN calling will be able to run them on Nortel's new WLAN Application Gateway 2246. Those specialized applications could include nurse-call systems in hospitals or inventory system look-ups in retail settings and warehouses, the company said.

Nortel aims to meet the requirements of VOIP calls with a "dynamic coverage" system that can detect coverage gaps and assign channels on the wireless access points to avoid interference. Those functions will be handled by the WLAN Security Switch 2270, which also has security functions including the detection and containment of rogue access points.

Newly introduced access devices to go with the Security Switch 2270 are equipped with sensors that monitor radio frequencies and report that data to the 2270. The WLAN Access Port 2230 offers 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g capability, while the Access Port 2231 has 802.11b/g support.

The company also announced the stand-alone WLAN Access Point 2225, a modular design that lets enterprises decide whether to use 802.11a, b, g or all three. It can also be equipped with external antennas to extend range.

The handsets are set to ship in May, priced at US$695 for the 2210 and $890 for the 2211. The IP Telephony Manager 2245 also will ship that month, for US$2,500, as will the Application Manager 2246, starting at US$1,600.

The WLAN Access Port 2230 and 2231 will ship in April, priced at US$599 and US$499, respectively, and the WLAN Security Switch 2270 will be generally available the same month, starting at US$10,999. The WLAN Access Point 2225, expected in the third quarter, will be priced at US$899 for a/b/g and US$599 for b/g support.