Voice Is Dead, Long Live Voice


We get caught up in the arms race that has become the networking industry. Speeds and feeds remain a hot selling point in the hardware business, and we’ve witnessed this with the entrance of 802.11ac Wave1 Gigabit Wi-Fi. If you haven’t gotten enough of that chatter, wait a few more months for Enterprise class 802.11ac Wave2 products to ship and the promise of “multi-gigabit” Wi-Fi will resonate through your cranium.

As we very well know, good Wi-Fi is not about how fast a radio PHY can transmit. More often than not, good Wi-Fi can be found in places, both public and private, without much thought given from users as to how it actually works.

If good Wi-Fi is not just about speeds you can bet that great Wi-Fi requires more than high data rates. Long known and rarely guarded knowledge amongst WLAN professionals is that planning is what drives results. We never, ever, see great Wi-Fi in the real world that happened by luck.

Voice over Wireless LAN (VoWLAN) has, for years, struck fear into those asked to design, deploy and support it. For many, the notion of VoWLAN has been an unproven science project left outside the scope of great Wi-Fi. In the early days, VoWLAN was a nascent technology left mostly to single mode devices, on a separate SSID, and in niche verticals like healthcare. Those times were not all bad, and many who cut their teeth supporting VoWLAN have proven the technology is ready for prime time.

And, as we’ve propelled further into the future we battle against much more than simple single mode phones operating with a single purpose. Instead we now support smartphones, tablets and laptops that all are capable of voice communications of some type (if not many types).

Combined with latest technology, such as 802.11ac, we see WLAN networks that are required to support everything, in real-time, all the time. Greater density of user and device populations are challenging us to better design our networks to support voice, and video, with the scale required to ensure every user has an excellent experience.

But the story doesn’t quite end there. The service provider market is starting to see disruption from new, and existing, carriers offering Wi-Fi only packages. The emergence of these new offerings will quickly surge use of VoWLAN beyond our expectation. And, with every industry disruption there will be those that sink and those that swim.

The success of these new Wi-Fi business models will rely on the successful design and deployment of these networks at “city-wide” scale. This will not be something easily achieved, nor an overnight success for those jumping into the Wi-Fi market.

For those that thought voice was dead, all I can say is long live voice!

The best practices learned in the enterprise will need to be extended and incorporated into every Wi-Fi deployment, no matter who’s in charge or what they’re charging for access. The basic premise quickly becomes that every WLAN must be capable of supporting VoWLAN as a fundamental and foundational design requirement.

5 key considerations for successful VoWLAN deployments

1. Device Capability – A key consideration is what the client(s) support (protocols/standards/channels)
2. Coverage – How are you planning RF coverage, what bands and channels will you use/reuse?
3. Interference – Your goal is to eliminate self-induced interference while optimizing the RF
4. Roaming – What techniques will be employed to handle fast and clean mobile transitions
5. Quality of Service (QoS) – Wired and Wireless marking/priority across the infrastructure

I’m really looking forward to presenting at the Wireless LAN Professionals 2015 Conference on this very topic. If you’d like to take a peek at my “10-talk” presentation here it is. Hopefully, for those of you attending #WLPC, the preview of my prezo will encourage you to join my session!

Feedback welcome – hit me up on twitter @mikeleibovitz


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