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Voice over Wi-Fi gets closer

VoIP's cousin may be here in two years

Speakers at this week's Wi-Fi/VoWiFi Planet Conference and Expo have been quick to assert that Wi-Fi will continue to grow and add capabilities, with voice over Wi-Fi services available in two years.

VoWiFi (voice over Wi-Fi) is similar to VoIP (voice over internet protocol). It has some security and other challenges to fix. However, a few organisations in healthcare and education are already experimenting with using Wi-Fi networks as the backbone of their phone systems.

In 2003 one analyst firm forecast more than 500,000 voice over wireless LAN phones would be sold by 2006. This week one speaker suggested that this hype may not end up far from reality.

Already, three major wireless phone makers have committed to making phones that can handle both traditional cellular calls and VoWiFi calls, another added.

Some critics of Wi-Fi have questioned its security and the range of its transmitters, saying its use is limited. But dozens of Wi-Fi security vendors have sprung up, many who continue to improve the range of devices well beyond 46m, a commonly accepted limit for an indoor wireless LAN.

People who still see Wi-Fi as a limited technology available in coffee shops are blinkered, one speaker said, adding that many of the technologists present were guilty of such tunnel vision

Although Wi-Fi and VoWiFi can have many of the same security problems as other IP devices, they can also benefit from some of the same solutions.

The operating system market for mobile devices is more fractured than the Windows-dominated PC OS market, meaning malware writers can't hit as many devices with the same virus.

But security vendors already offer products that scan devices as they connect to networks, and antivirus software for mobile devices is coming, a speaker said.

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