Can Voice over Wi-Fi help your business?

Voice over Wi-Fi (or Voice over wireless LAN) is the use of a wireless network for the purposes of vocal conversation. So companies with an existing Wi-Fi network can potentially use it for voice traffic as well as standard data traffic.

Internet Protocol Telephony (IP) handsets can connect to a Wi-Fi network to allow users to make and receive calls via the existing telephone system, while mobile and working around a site. This includes being able to make external calls, a function, which isn't quite as seamless with radio systems. For example, if an engineer is working on a broken machine and is up against time to quickly get it working again, they are able to call the supplier to get the necessary support whilst working with the machine, thus speeding up the time to resolve the fault.

Voice over Wi-Fi systems also have more than one channel, which means multiple calls can be made by users simultaneously without the risk of blocking the system. The handsets also support functions such as roaming and handover, whereby they will automatically register from one access point to another as the user roams around a site. Similarly, if a user is on a call whilst on the move, calls will seamlessly handover access points. Furthermore, every user who has an IP handset can have their own number and the ability to:

' Receive incoming calls
' Place people on hold
' Transfer calls to other users
' Join three way conversations
' Access voicemail if unable to answer a call
' Access a phonebook
' Make and receive text messages

Some manufacturers' IP handsets have lone worker capabilities such as panic buttons and man-down sensors like tilt and no-motion that employees can deploy when working alone or in hazardous environments.

This functionality enables users to carry out tasks by themselves with the peace of mind that colleagues can be alerted to an incident, even if they are rendered unconscious.

Many organisations will already have a Wi-Fi network in place and will have made the investment into having access points around a site so that staff can access the Internet network using a PDA or a laptop. By using existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, an organisation can avoid the costs of implementing and running independent wireless voice and data networks. Also by not having separate voice and data Wi-Fi networks and utilising just one, fewer people are required to manage the network, resulting in further cost savings.

Many hospitals, with cost savings and efficiency targets have installed Wi-Fi networks and are an example of the type of organisation that should investigate the benefits a Voice over Wi-Fi solution would deliver. At present, many have paging systems in place where doctors and nurses will have to go to the nearest phone to pick up a message, which can waste valuable time. With IP handsets, they can receive updates and urgent notifications in near real-time, leading to improved patient care, and greater efficiency throughout the wards.

It is important though to note that not all Wi-Fi networks can support voice calls and not all mobile IP handsets are the same. When investing in mobile IP handsets, it’s crucial to survey the Wi-Fi networks to assess their capability to process voice traffic and for organisations to feel confident that the solution will work.

If you would like to learn more about Voice over Wi-Fi and how this and other communication systems can save your business money by improving efficiency, please contact us on 01494 833123.