The convergence of telephony with television, video and IT networking has enabled a digital revolution in communications. At the core of this revolution is Voice over IP, (“VoIP”), a digital voice distribution protocol.
A wireless network (“WiFi”) as its name suggests is the replacement of a wired IP network with a truly mobile network delivered using wireless technologies. WiFi networks can today compete with wired networks in connectivity and bandwidth.
The introduction of Wireless Networking in parallel with VoIP has raised the natural question as to whether they can co-exist, and what are the benefits to the casual user and to a business which adopts both technologies as part of a distributed communications strategy (“DCS”).
The simple answer to coexistence is yes.
In broad terms, coexistence gives an opportunity to radically reduce communications costs, and opens the door to a whole host of new communications techniques and opportunities.
Wireless networks can be private to a business, used by authorised users of the business network only, or can be public, such as those increasingly found in malls and cafés. Some municipalities are providing public Metropolitan Wireless networks throughout the Municipality. Pretoria in South Africa is one such.
The availability of WiFi in public areas is driving a revolution in business, freeing solo operators and small and micro-business users from the constraints and costs of a fixed office location. They can interact with their suppliers and customers via VoIP providers online from virtually anywhere. They are always in their Virtual Office. In short, wireless is driving the emergence of a new type of worker, the mobile worker, by allowing them to be always in contact as they move around.
For the casual user, the integration of VoIP with WiFi provides the individual with an amazingly low-cost communications platform. WiFi enabled tablets and smartphones supporting VoIP phone apps provide the user with the means to be always in touch using internet phone call and data sharing applications. Of course, they need to be in a WiFi enabled area.
It is a current topic of discussion whether a cell-phone user needs a cell-service provider at all. If the user has WiFi connectivity from their smart device and use of a VoIP phone application like Skype or WhatsApp, then they do not need a cell phone connection to communicate with others. A major threat and sea-change in business focus for the cell-service providers.
At its heart of a business DCS is VoIP for Business, usually first implemented with a VoIP phone system from a VoIP provider. A VoIP phone system is a lot more than “just a phone”. A system supporting it brings with it a host of new features and functions. It provides simple telephony obviously, supplemented by programmed and on-the-fly group voice and video calling. It provides auto-forwarding, voice messaging, and call screening. It also comes with corporate and personal phone books.
Smart device and desktop VoIP applications like Skype provide one-on-one and group video calling, file transfer and desktop sharing. Coupled with a full-blown video-conferencing system, it provides a powerful environment for low-cost international voice and video phone calls via a VoIP provider and information sharing and transfer worldwide.
Video calling can be provided via video-capable VoIP Phones on the desktop, by apps on the desktop itself, smart device apps to integrate VoIP with a smartphone or tablet, and by integration with full-blown video-conferencing systems.
Implementation of SIP interfaces on the VoIP phone system and a mobile smart device allows the smart device to replace the desktop VoIP Phone extension. The smart device uses software to emulate the features and functions of the desktop VoIP Phone. A mobile smart device user therefore has full access to the corporate VoIP phone system from anywhere that they are in range of the corporate WiFi network.
In addition, some VoIP providers provide a facility via a secure network for users to connect to the corporate phone system over the Internet.
While VoIP and WiFi can exist independently, there are considerable advantages to having both. Having both allows a user, in say a factory or campus environment to walk around with their VoIP phone extension in their pocket. They can initiate and receive voice and video calls, join conference calls and resolve issues there and then without the need to return to the office. Immediate productivity improvements.
Such an opportunity is part of the convergence of VoIP and Wireless driving the emergence of a new type of worker, the mobile worker, by allowing them to be always in contact as they move around in the business location or elsewhere. With a smartphone or tablet, they have a mobile office.
To answer the question – Can VoIP and WiFi networks co-exist, the answer is a resounding yes. An even more resounding yes if both are implemented. The great benefits to both business and to the casual user are undeniable.