Cisco, Intel Ratchet Up WLANs, VoIP

Intel and Cisco announced this week they would bolster wireless local area networks (LANS) and the use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) by businesses with a new wireless suite.

The two companies said they had jointly produced a new set of features that pull together Cisco’s wireless infrastructure and Intel’s Centrino mobile chip technology, providing security and enhancement to VoIP over WiFi and other wireless use.

“Business Class Wireless Suite provides an enhanced set of capabilities that makes wireless LANs more robust for the enterprise, supporting enhanced roaming and business applications such as Voice over IP,” the companies said in a press release.

At the same time an industry report highlighted the growing telecom impact of VoIP, Cisco and Intel said the new features would be available in the first quarter of 2006.

Business Biggies

Analysts said the collaboration was interesting, but not surprising given Cisco’s presence in wireless infrastructure and Intel’s dedication to WiFi, or 802.11 wireless technology.

“It’s a very logical and very intuitive match,” Ovum vice president of wireless telecoms Roger Entner told TechNewsWorld. “Cisco is very strong in the WiFi area, both for consumers and in the enterprise. Intel has bootstrapped the whole WiFi phenomenon. Here you have the chip guy, with Centrino, getting together with one of the largest, if not the largest, hot spot provider.”

The move is not seen as competition to VoIP providers such as Skype and Vonage, and wireless providers, particularly Sprint, are also co-opting VoIP rather than competing with it, according to Entner.

“It makes a lot of sense,” he said of VoIP over WiFi. “It’s a significant challenge. It’s more of an opportunity for the traditional VoIP carriers. [Cisco and Intel] are interested in enabling them.”

Security Synergy

Cisco and Intel stressed their focus on security in the wireless LAN collaboration: Intel will join the Cisco-led Network Admission Control (NAC) program, and Cisco is joining Intel’s Active Management Technology (AMT) program.

“With Cisco NAC interoperating with Intel AMT, enterprises will be better able to defend against security threats, helping to maintain user and business productivity and reduce the cost of security attacks and improve system remediation.”

The companies, which announced the latest collaboration at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco this week, said their security and management technologies would be compatible by the fourth quarter of this year.

Across the Board Benefit

Yankee Group senior analyst Zeus Kerravala told TechNewsWorld the collaboration, intended to bolster the viability of VoIP over wireless LAN, was good news for both corporate and consumer wireless users.

He indicated that security and management of VoIP over WiFi has historically been somewhat ad-hoc. He explained that if people use VoIP over WiFi at home and experience problems, that means it is bad for business use. However, Cisco and Intel signaled they would work to improve the quality and security of VoIP over WiFi for both sets of users.

“Anything these guys can do to help the quality of VoIP helps across the board,” Kerravala said.

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