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VoWLAN technology answers critical business communications needs

VoWLAN is an alternative to traditional PBX and even wired VoIP systems when the restrictive nature of those anchored systems isn't viable due to the nature of the work, business environment or geographic location. Value-added resellers and sales engineers should keep these points in mind when approaching customers with VoWLAN.

Voice over wireless LANs (VoWLANs) extend wired VoIP phone systems, enabling a host of wireless voice telephony applications in hospitals, retail stores, warehouses, airports and enterprises. With VoWLANs, system integrators and VARs can offer significant benefits to their clients by providing mobility and converging voice with data applications.

The following are a few samples of common business problems that VoWLANs can resolve, which you can target as the basis for selling applicable hardware.

Communications delays

VoWLANs enhance communications by allowing cost-effective, direct communications between people. For example, at hospitals, doctors and nurses must be in immediate contact with each other in order to respond quickly to patient needs. Traditional telephone systems at hospitals are usually ineffective because they don't provide mobility needed to reach doctors in areas where doctors go. In order to contact a doctor, for instance, someone must send a message to a pager. The doctor responds to the page after hunting for an available phone. If a phone can't be found in the immediate area, the doctor usually waits and returns the call later, which often results in leaving a voice message for the caller. This phone tag significantly slows down communications, and in the case of a hospital, it radically reduces patient care. With a VoWLAN system, the doctor can communicate with the caller initially when needed, eliminating the delays of traditional methods.

Retail stores can also benefit considerably from VoWLANs. Store managers, for instance, must be accessible from anywhere within the store. Voice communications with these managers is crucial in providing effective customer satisfaction. For example, a customer in a home improvement store may explain to a store clerk in the paint department the need to replace a part found broken when putting together a newly purchased storage cabinet; or someone may need to know the status of a shipment of a particular type of carpet. Whenever the need arises, immediate communications with the applicable department manager is necessary. Customers can't be kept waiting, or they'll shop elsewhere. In this type of environment, VoWLAN really shines by allowing instant and cost-effective communications between store clerks and department managers.

Limited two-way radio coverage

A common method for providing communications in facilities is to equip maintenance workers, security staff and IT technicians with two-way radios. This allows them to communicate as they roam about the facility. The problem, however, is that two-way radios often don't have enough range to cover most larger buildings. As a result, it may not always be possible to reach someone via the two-way radio. This situation, which is common in airports and universities, can create significant communications delays. A VoWLAN system, however, will provide much wider coverage throughout the facility by making use of a wireless LAN designed to cover the entire building.

High cost of cell phones

Some companies make use of cell phones for keeping employees in touch with customers and coworkers. Cell phone subscription plans, though, are relatively expensive. In addition, cell phone coverage is not good in larger facilities. A company can install cell phone repeaters, but that is usually cost-prohibitive. VoWLANs are a much more cost-effective solution for providing communications throughout a facility by sharing the wireless LAN with other applications.

In some cases, a company will already have a wireless LAN in place supporting other applications, such as bar code scanning. By purchasing wireless IP phones and installing a call processing server, the company can cost-effectively make use of the existing wireless LAN infrastructure. If no wireless LAN exists, then the company can generally justify the cost of installing the wireless LAN to support voice applications.

About the author
Jim Geier is the principal of Wireless-Nets Ltd., a consulting firm focusing on the implementation of wireless mobile solutions. He is the author of the books,
Deploying Voice over WLANs (Cisco Press), Wireless LANs (SAMs) and Wireless Networks - First Step (Cisco Press).

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